Health Care: Reid Promises Bill With or Without Republicans, Harkin Talks to AlterNet, Schumer Lays an Egg

At today's press conference on the Senate health-care bill, Harry Reid played close to the vest, while Tom Harkin seemed to promise cooperation from Joe Lieberman.

Standing before an audience of union members, former Obama campaign volunteers and media in a cramped room in the Capitol Visitors Center, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke in historical terms of the health-care bill he melded out of the bills crafted by two Senate committees. Reading from a letter to Congress written by President Harry Truman 64 years ago to the day, Reid called upon the Senate to get behind his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"He knew that the health of the American people is linked to the health of the American economy," Reid said of Truman. He then noted that a person who was one year old at the time Truman penned the letter would, this very day, become eligible for Medicare. (C-SPAN has video here.)

Reid stood surrounded by Democratic senators from the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., his assistant majority leader. In their triumphant mood, each of the Democrats seemed to assume their individual personae quite fully.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., invoked the spirit of the late Ted Kennedy, whose reins of the HELP Committee Dodd took while crafting the bill during the last days of Kennedy's illness. The affably pugilistic Durbin played true to form, noting that the largest criticism he heard from the Republican side was that the bill was 2,000 pages long.

"I might remind the Republican side of the aisle that when it comes to the size of legislation, it was that bank-bailout bill that the last president proposed that was only three pages long," Durbin said. "Now, there's a work of wisdom."

Durbin also projected a raft of legal challenges from insurance companies after the bill is passed. "[Y]ou better make sure you have a lot of pages there to cover the law suits they're going to file to try to stop us," he said.

Chuck Schumer of New York, standing in for Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (who was in his home state of Montana tending to his sick mother), exceeded expectations of persona-fulfillment with a very bad joke about breakfast foods. Referring to "that impresario, that great chef, Harry Reid," Schumer said, "I have this tie on here: it has eggs and cheese and pork. So, it's a great omelet. Harry made a great omelet. You sometimes have to break a few eggs to make a great omelet, but he did...We have great cheese from the Finance Committee and great pork from the HELP Committee. I couldn't say we had great pork from the Finance Committee or I'd be in trouble."

At one point during Schumer's McMuffin speech, Dodd leaned over to whisper in Harry Reid's ear. Would that we could know what he said.


Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.