Clinton to rally Democratic senators on healthcare

The former president is slated to stop by the caucus' weekly lunch for a pep talk, and perhaps a warning

Published November 10, 2009 3:40PM (EST)

When you're in a tough spot -- like when, say, you need to herd the group of cats that is the Senate Democratic caucus -- the thing to do is call out the big guns. Or, in some cases, you call out the Big Dog: Former President Clinton.

Clinton's scheduled to speak to the caucus at its weekly lunch on Tuesday. His topic, reportedly, will be healthcare reform, and passing it, something he's both intimate and unfamiliar with, as his own efforts went down in flames back in the early 1990's.

That failure, and the consequences it had for the Democrats at the ballot box -- Republicans took back both houses of Congress -- are likely to be the key parts of Clinton's message Tuesday. The idea, of course, is that Democrats in moderate and conservative states who are scared of political costs for backing their party's proposals should remember that not passing a bill can be just as dangerous.

It's a good message to send, and one that might be convincing. There's one hitch, though -- senators serve six-year terms. That means only three senators who are potential swing votes are up for reelection in 2010, while some of the bigger names on the fence, like Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, have some time yet before they have to run again.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Bill Clinton Healthcare Reform War Room