9-11 Bill Imperiled By Coburn Stalling Tactics

Chuck Schumer ran his mouth on Morning Joe and gave the impression that the 9-11 health care bill was a done deal. It’s not. There’s no specific timetable for a vote; Schumer said there would be one at noon and we’re well past that, with no sign of calling the question. In fact, Tom Coburn is still holding out.

The problem is, while enough votes appear to be secured to pass the bill, three cloture votes would be needed to get the whole thing done in the Senate (a vote to proceed, a vote on the substitute amendment, and a vote to end debate). Basically, Coburn and his colleagues could stretch this out for a week, refusing to cede back post-cloture time and forcing all three votes to play out. And the House has set a soft deadline of today to get it done; they don’t want to come back next week, and a lot of lame-duck members probably just won’t. I suspect that Nancy Pelosi would get her cadres back for one day to get this done, but it has made passage troublesome.

Coburn reiterated his insistence that the cost of the bill be brought down and refused to back off his position, according to sources. Dems object because if Coburn’s demands are met, it could drastically reduce the health benefits enjoyed by 9/11 responders, according to a source close to the talks.

Reid — and even some Republicans — want to pass the bill via what’s know as “unanimous consent,” which would allow it to pass quickly and be done with as long as no senators object. But the Dem leadership remains concerned that Coburn will object, scuttling this route forward. That’s why Reid has not yet agreed to a vote this afternoon, sources say.

If a deal isn’t reached with Coburn by this evening, sources say, Dems will forge forward with a standard cloture vote. They believe they have 60 votes for it, and are willing to call Coburn’s bluff. They say that once the bill passes cloture with bipartisan support, this will intensify the pressure on Coburn to not resort to procedural delays to stall final passage.

I think Coburn has weathered that kind of pressure before, and will do so again. He’s not going to budge, and he’d probably rather this gets pushed to the next Congress, when Republicans would have more options for pay-fors, including the ability to cancel $6 billion or so in spending.

The pressure does appear to be mounting from allies in both parties to get this done, but remember, Coburn just got re-elected in November. There’s very little pressure that can be brought to bear on him personally. And if Coburn falters, Jim DeMint, who spoke against the bill on the floor this morning, is right behind him.

I don’t disagree that Republicans come off looking pretty bad with this move, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll reach an agreement. They’re too pissed off about Democratic victories in this lame duck session, and their m.o. is to piss off liberals. So the fact that first responders are succumbing to their illnesses in the process doesn’t much bother them.

UPDATE: Couldn’t take the pressure? Mike McAuliffe reports that the deal is done after the bill got pared down even more.

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand met with other senators’ staff and staff from Rep. Carolyn maloney’s offce until well after midnight, cutting a new deal and trimming the package to care for 9/11 responders to $4.3 billion, sources close to the deal said […]

Besides cutting the price for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act from $6.2 billion, the time span was also significantly limited to five years each for the health treatment program and the reopened 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund.

Other concessions that negotiators had to make to Coburn and Enzi included a hard cap on lawyers’ fees at 10%, and even stronger reporting requirements and Government Accountability Office reviews than were already in the bill.

The initial bill was about $7.4 billion. Will the cutbacks mean less care for first responders? Unclear.

…more from ABC News. The bill will get done today, and the lame duck will most likely end today as well.

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