Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) asserted on Sunday that the Senate's version of health care legislation will, by and large, be the final product, even though negotiators in the House and Senate have yet to merge their respective bills.
The North Dakota Democrat, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, offered a reading of the political tea leaves, predicting that several conservative Democratic senators would abandon reform if too many changes were made to the current legislative compromise.
"It is very clear that the final bill that passed in the United States Senate is going too have to be very close to the bill that is being negotiated here," he said. "Otherwise you will not get 60 votes in the United States Senate. So, look, this is a bill that does reduce the deficit according to the independent expert. This is a bill that expands coverage to 30 million people. This is a bill that will begin to control the cost explosion, has got critically important insurance reforms, delivery system reforms, so those who say kill the bill, I think, have really missed the boat."
The conference committee negotiations between the House and Senate should be a very delicate process, for the reason that Conrad notes. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) has insisted that the Senate's version of reform is not going to be the final product. And on everything from affordability provisions to pay-for mechanisms, she and others seem poised to try and pull the Senate bill toward the House's version.