It’s Harry’s Show Now

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So, four months after its first deadline, the Finance Committee is finally done. Now the spotlight turns to Harry Reid. The fates must have some small sense of irony to burden the largest bill of just about anyone’s career (unless you’re Bobby Byrd and were here for the passage of the Civil Rights Act) on the most vulnerable 2010 Democratic incumbent.

Assembling the bill over the next week and getting it through the Senate in the two weeks after that will be one of the biggest challenges of Reid’s career. He has three groups he must convince in order garner the 60 votes he needs to pass it. First: the policy makers. Senators like Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Chuck Schumer of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon, who have provisions that they’ve championed that they are demanding be included in the bill or, some have threatened, they will not support it. His second hurdle will be to corral the moderates: senators from conservative states, like Reid, who fear for their political lives voting for a bill that many in their home states equate to socialized medicine. This is a group, includes Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Louisiana’s May Landrieu. His third target group is outside of his caucus and has a constituency of one, though he is working to expand it: Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican. As I mentioned yesterday, Reid is hoping that other Republicans might follow her lead.

Many progressives, though, fear Reid may be too moderate or meek in his approach. Today the Progressive Change Campaign Committee along with Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida are expected to deliver a petition with nearly 90,000 signatures telling Reid that “any Democratic senators who support a Republican attempt to block a vote on health care reform should be stripped of their leadership titles.” Should progressives be nervous that Reid might drag the bill to the center for fear of his own hide (he does after all, represent a conservative state)? “If you are a progressive and looking for public option that should be a big concern,” says Jennifer Duffy, Senate editor at the Cook Political Report. “He’s in one of those bad places of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But at this point it’s better to get a bill than not.”

Still, none of the dozen Democratic senators I spoke to for this story expressed concern. “There’re just two different side-by-side railroad tracks on that — I mean, the idea that Harry Reid would be effected by an election in terms of what he did on the health care bill, he’s just – he’s just a rock miner’s son. He’s tough,” laughed Jay Rockefeller. “He went through college as a prize fighter – nothing effects him.”