Telling Senate Democrats that "the worst thing to do is nothing," former President Bill Clinton visited a Hill luncheon Tuesday hoping to persuade the lawmakers to resolve their differences with a health-care bill immediately.
"It's not important to be perfect here. It's important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling," Clinton told reporters after the meeting. "There will be amendments to this effort, whatever they pass, next year and the year after and the year after, and there should be. It's a big, complicated, organic thing. But the worst thing to do is nothing."
There’s no telling when the nation will get another opportunity to see that the 36 million uninsured Americans get coverage, Clinton said, remembering the failed attempt a decade and a half ago, when he was president and Democrats controlled both the House and Senate.
Most Senate Democrats, who emerged from the Capitol following the visit by Clinton, who was asked to address the caucus by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, were mum on what influence the former president might have had on their decision. But some expressed optimism.
"He made a strong case for Congress getting this done this year," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). "I think there is a general sense that the clock is ticking . . . that getting it done this year will in effect clear the tables and allow the focus to be on jobs, and infrastructure and education. He made a compelling case for that position."
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate leadership, said Democrats came away from the lunchtime meeting with "real optimism we can get it done this year."
The challenge for Reid is to unify the 60 Democratic Caucus members – which include two Independents and several moderate Dems – around a common plan with many, many controversial elements. Perhaps the most difficult part will be to convince the senators to allow the measure on the floor for an up or down vote. Without all 60, Senate Republicans can use procedural motions to block it.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that he and his partymates would every parliamentary option available to block a vote. "The Senate is a place where the American people get to weigh in, where there are amendments on a whole, broad array of issues. And we will have lots of amendments. They may have, as well," he said.