Five Senators Who Will Influence the Health Reform Debate

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , November 23, 2009

Senate Democrats got a boost on Saturday night with the 60-39 vote to put the new healthcare reform bill into play on the Senate floor following Thanksgiving break.

Here are five senators who likely will be influencing the legislation beginning Nov. 30:

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) will be a major influence as the Senate majority leader—while working behind the scenes to get 60 votes together for the final bill.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who has taken over the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee from the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, has been an advocate of wellness and better health initiatives.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as Senate minority leader, has been a strong advocate of not ending but "changing the healthcare debate." He can be expected to rally his fellow Republicans around cost and tax issues related to healthcare reform.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), as a member of the Senate Finance Committee's Health Subcommittee, has pledged during the Finance Committee hearings to introduce numerous amendments to the bill ranging from Medicaid coverage to medical loss ratios. He has been a strong advocate of the public insurance option.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), while head of the Senate Budget Committee, filled in this summer for his friend, Sen. Edward Kennedy, in shepherding the HELP Committee's healthcare reform bill to completion after weeks of work. He has often appeared with Sen. Reid in supporting the current bill.

Possibly missing in action on the Senate floor for part of the debate will be Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus, whose mother is ill, was noticeably absent this past week when the Senate bill was introduced—although he was present on Saturday to cast his vote for moving the bill forward. 

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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