Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 | 7:13 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- Say what you will about Sen. Harry Reid’s abilities as majority leader (and people do), he is nothing if not a vote counter.
Reid is hyper-skilled at knowing almost precisely how each member of his Democratic caucus will vote on an issue.
That is why it left Washington shaking its head Wednesday afternoon when the so-called doctors’ fix bill went down in defeat.
More than a dozen Democrats joined all Republicans in killing the bill that would have provided a long-term fix for the annual problem of cutting pay for doctors who take Medicare patients. Virtually no one wants to cut doctors’ pay, and every year, Congress miraculously figures out a way to avoid the pay cut.
Reid had engineered a long-term solution the doctors had sought reportedly in exchange for their continued support of the massive health care reform bill going through Congress.
How could the majority leader have so badly misjudged the outcome?
Reid told Nevada reporters on a conference call after the vote that the American Medical Association had assured Republican support. This apparently led Reid to believe he could afford to lose some Democrats if so many Republicans voted yes.
“The reason we moved forward on this issue is that we had been given an assurance 27 Republicans would be with us,” Reid said during the post-vote conference call. “The AMA told staff all over town we’d have 27 votes.”
The AMA issued a statement that it was disappointed in the Senate’s vote.
Republicans pounced on the loss as an omen of the dire outlook for health care reform and the inadequacies of Reid’s skills as leader (pointing to today’s poll showing Nevadans aren’t thrilled with his performance as majority leader).
Reid remained undeterred, telling Nevada reporters he hopes to have the massive reform bill passed from the Senate “in the next few weeks.”