Looking to build momentum before the Senate goes on recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reached out to the White House last week to see if the administration could help.
The Nevada Democrat wanted former President Bill Clinton -- the best living political symbol of the pitfalls of health care reform -- to rally caucus members behind current legislation. The White House, according to multiple sources, obliged, having Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reach out to his former boss and arrange the in-person pep talk with the Senate.
"It was Harry Reid's idea and invitation though we did help get it done," said one White House aide.
On Tuesday, the 42nd President is set to brief lawmakers for roughly two hours. The goal, said a Democratic Senate aide with knowledge of the arrangement, was not, specifically, to pitch the benefits of passing legislation to conservative Democrats.
"It really wasn't," the aide said. "It really was that they just wanted to bring in somebody who had been there and done that; somebody who has been in the trenches, who would tell them, 'Don't give up now.'"
Of course, bringing a recalcitrant Democrat on board would be welcome. According to the same Democratic Senate aide, Reid's office is hoping that the Clinton visit will spur enough good will and political momentum behind reform's passage to essentially make it inevitable. The Senate is set to leave for recess on Wednesday -- not returning until after the weekend. In the interim, it seems possible (if not likely) that the Congressional Budget Office will release its score on Reid's bill.
The dream scenario is that the score comes in below the $900 billion mark, which would allow Reid's office to avoid having to go back to the CBO with alterations or quibbles.
"Then," the aide said, "we would introduce to the [Democratic] Caucus and put it online next week and then file a motion to proceed (potentially) on Monday the 23rd."
If Clinton can inspire enough energy behind reform, and if the CBO numbers are favorable, leadership hopes that it will make passage of legislation seem all the more inviting to Democrats on the fence.