November 17, 2009

EVEN THE SAFE ONES ARE SHAKY:

A centrist in health-care debate, Lincoln hears it from all sides: GOP and liberals put pressure on Democrat as Senate vote nears (Shailagh Murray, 11/17/09, Washington Post)

An Arkansas Poll published Nov. 5 found that Lincoln's job-approval rating had dropped to 43 percent, from 54 percent a year ago. At least seven Republicans are vying to challenge her bid for a third term; Baker raised $500,000 in his first month as a candidate. And if she does not embrace the party line on the health issue, Lincoln could also face a Democratic primary challenger, along with a Green Party opponent in the general election.

"In some ways, there's not a good vote on this," said Sen. Mark Pryor (D), Arkansas's junior senator, who coasted to reelection last year. "You're going to have detractors on either side, no matter what you do. So I think in the end you have to what you think is right. And I think that's what we're all going to have to do."

The first test for Lincoln could come as early as Friday, when the Senate will vote on whether to bring the bill to the floor. Lincoln told party leaders she would study the final product before committing either way.

"What people want is for us to take our time and not rush into something that we haven't thought completely through," she said, shrugging off the pressure as she hurried back to her office after a Senate vote last week.

Although Pryor supports the reform effort, another prominent Arkansan, Rep. Mike Ross (D), voted against the House bill.

"Most people support the need for health-insurance reform; they just think we can do it for less," Ross said. "They really, as I do, support more choices. They're just skeptical of a bill that takes 2,000 pages to accomplish that."

Ross was reluctant to offer Lincoln advice, but acknowledged her predicament. "She represents the whole state. I just represent one-fourth of the state. I'd just be guessing." But he added: "I think people fear the unintended consequences in a bill this massive."

Democratic leaders expect Lincoln to stick with them on key procedural votes, but are less confident about winning her support on critical amendments -- particularly on the contentious public option.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 17, 2009 3:57 PM
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