Signs of Hope for Healthcare in the U.S. Senate

Of all the hurdles facing healthcare reform in 2009, the U.S. Senate is arguably the most formidable. But the prospects for passing a healthcare bill this year have brightened noticeably over the past few days, thanks to a senate seat pickup in Minnesota, solidifying support for the budget reconciliation strategy, and tentative overtures towards bipartisanship from key Republicans.

A three-judge panel declared Democrat Al Franken the winner of the Minnesota senate race. We don’t have a firm date for seating Franken, but Harry Reid said to be looking forward to doing so in the near future. Franken is an outspoken advocate for healthcare reform and favors expanding the public insurance system to cover more people.

Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., spoke out in favor of passing healthcare reform through the budget reconciliation process this week, as Public News Service reports. Gilibrand is the latest in a string of Democratic legislators to support the reconciliation process, which would allow the Senate to circumvent a filibuster and pass legislation with simple majority vote.

Some Republicans might even be willing to work with the Democrats on healthcare reform. Senator Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is hinting that she might be willing to cooperate with Democrats, Steve Benen writes in the Washington Monthly. And according to Public News Service, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is expected to work closely with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. on healthcare reform legislation: “I think [Grassley] and Senator Max Baucus of Montana are really the champions of bi-partisanship in this whole debate. I think that in order for us to get an effective piece of legislation it’s going to have to be bi-partisan,” Lee Hammond, president-elect of the AARP national board, told Public News Service at a healthcare forum attended by Grassley.

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