SHOWDOWN

High Noon for Harry Reid

It's high noon at 8 p.m. tonight in the Senate—and if Harry Reid can't marshal all 60 members of the Democratic caucus to vote to begin debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, healthcare reform may be dead for good. While tonight's vote is only the start to the Senate process, a unanimous Republican opposition means that Reid needs each of the 58 Democrats and the two Senate Independents to vote "yes" to avoid a filibuster. Three moderate Democrats—Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas—have been seen as Reid's biggest obstacle to winning the vote, and with Nelson confirming that he'll vote for debate and Landrieu also saying she will vote yes, Lincoln appears to be the majority leader's biggest obstacle. Reid is betting his reputation on this bill in more ways than one: not only would its failure call into question his leadership in the Senate, and throw into doubt his reelection campaign in Nevada, but since the majority leader's office wrote this bill, Reid owns it. If the bill passes into debate, expect to see Republicans ramp up their rhetoric over the next month; if it doesn't, you might not see much of Harry Reid anymore at all.