With 53 Democrats — counting the two independents, Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucus with them — and 47 Republicans, neither side has the leverage to take a strong position on the health care law without peeling off several votes from the other side.
Reid said Wednesday that any spending agreement should be free of riders, which signals that the Senate will push for an agreement without the defunding language or any of the other policy restrictions in the House bill. He may not have that option, though, if it becomes clear that Senate Republicans can’t or won’t deliver enough votes for that kind of spending agreement.
“Unless there’s some clear deal that I can’t envision right now, I don’t see how they do it,” said Vin Weber, a former member of the House Republican leadership and now a managing partner at Clark & Weinstock. “No Republican wants to be accused of abandoning the fight against the health care law. It’s still a huge motivating issue to the base.”