By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 11, 2009 ( – One Democrat senator is seeking to alter Senate filibuster rules in the quest to hammer through President Obama's health care overhaul, which continues to struggle to find enough support to pass the Senate, reports the Omaha World-Herald.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he would try to push through legislation to eliminate the Senate filibuster so that the health care bill would only require a simple majority, rather than 60 votes, to pass.

Harkin complained that some senators were still unwilling to pass the bill without major changes.

“It really is an abuse,” Harkin said. “It's an abuse of a person's position as a senator to demand, because we need one more vote, just to demand everything. It's really unfair to the rest of the Senate, rest of the caucus.”  Noting that he and many senators have overcome their inhibitions about the bill, Harkin suggested that “to sort of lay down an ultimatum” about conditions for passing a bill was “not the way you do legislation.” 

Harkin said he was unsure how many of his colleagues supported the move to alter the rules, and noted that he had proposed similar legislation years ago.

Democrat leadership has a daunting task before it, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to seek avenues to persuade moderate senators to compromise on issues such as the public health insurance option and the abortion mandate. 

After the chamber voted down Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) amendment to apply Hyde-amendment restrictions on federal abortion funding in the bill, Nelson said it “makes it harder” to support the measure.  But he expressed tentative openness to further abortion compromise attempts, saying, “While I have drawn a line in the sand, I still want to leave open the opportunity, if they can come up with something that satisfies all the stakeholders here, to look at it.” 

Nelson also contradicted Reid's claim that Democrats had reached a “broad agreement” on a public option compromise, saying that the senators involved had merely agreed to send the proposal to the Congressional Budget Office for a financial analysis.

Affirming that he has “a number of concerns that remain unresolved” in the bill concerning the public option, Nelson said, “I'm not in a position to compromise principle on this issue.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), the other major Senate Democrat who is considered by many to be pro-life, has expressed less commitment to rejecting the bill.

Asked by Tuesday whether he would vote for the health bill if the Nelson/Hatch/Casey amendment were defeated, Casey responded: “I've said, I don't know how many times, probably at least 50 times, that I would not let any issue, including important issues like abortion, of adoption – no one has done more on children's issues, no one, on this debate – Even on those issues I haven't said, 'If I don't get this – a children's health insurance program, a public option'—that I would draw that line in the sand,” he said.

Democrat leaders in the House and Senate aim to pass the legislation by the end of the year.


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