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A who’s who of health care reform

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A who’s who of health care reform

Politico – After months of committee work, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California are driving the debate on health care reform, but they are each relying on a cast of supporting actors.

If the Democratic leadership expects to pass the most far-reaching legislation in 40 years, it needs an assist from a bona fide deal maker such as Sen. Chuck Schumer and an emerging one such as Sen. Tom Carper. There are also wild cards, progressive loyalists, centrist doubters and 2010 targets who will each shape the health care bill.

Reid, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) have played outsize roles in shaping the legislation to this point, and they are likely to maintain their influence by managing the legislation on the floor later this month. In the House, Pelosi showed she could corral her disparate caucus and position Democrats to pass a bill as early as next week.

Here’s a look at key players beyond the top tier:

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.)

While political commentators administered last rites to the public insurance option in late September, these two senators were quietly giving it new life. Concerned about the hardened lines in the debate, Carper began floating an alternative proposal allowing states to create their own competitor to private insurance. Schumer then suggested that states be allowed to opt out of a national plan. As two senators who represent different wings of the Democratic caucus — Schumer is a liberal, Carper is a moderate — they will continue to play a key role threading the needle on the issue.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

He has emerged as a leading liberal voice in the Senate on health care. When President Barack Obama sounded noncommittal on the public option, Brown predicted he would come around. When the White House made conflicting statements about an $80 billion deal with the pharmaceutical industry, Brown called it on it. When the media raised doubts about the political viability of a public option, Brown countered that a majority of Democrats backed the proposal. As a member of the Senate health committee, he co-wrote with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) the public insurance option that Reid placed into the merged Senate bill. Brown has established himself as the go-to spokesman on the progressive side of the scale.

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