The Kamakazi Option: On health care reform, the action is in the House
Forget reconciliation for the moment, if the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill doesn’t make it out of the House, reconciliation is moot. As we talked about on last night’s podcast, the action to be watched is in the House where Nancy Peolosi is trying to gather enough votes to pass the bill into law. If and when that should happen, and that is an extremely iffy prosepect at best, then reconciliation comes into play, with the Senate promising to pass “fixes” to the Senate bill/law to satisfy House Democrats.
So the effort in the House is two-fold: 1) put a legislative package together that will be passed after the Senate bill is signed into law that will satisfy wavering House Democrats and 2) then get enough votes among Democrats (remember they don’t need a single Republican vote to pass this bill in the House) to pass the Senate bill.
As of this writing, Pelosi doesn’t have enough votes to pass the bill. So, in the face of increasing public disapproval and skitish House Democrats, she’s reduced to calling on Democrats to become political kamakazis in order to pass this monstrosity of a bill into law.
“Our members, every one of them, wants health care,” Ms. Pelosi said. “They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.”
“But,” Ms. Pelosi continued, “the American people need it. Why are we here? We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress. We’re here to do the job for the American people, to get them results that give them not only health security, but economic security.”
Ms. Pelosi, holding a fairly safe seat from the liberal San Francisco area, is willing to spend the careers of every Democrat in the House to get her way. The question is, are enough of the Democratic members of the House willing to go along?
My sense is the answer is no (if they were, the bill would be law right now, wouldn’t it?) and she’s going to have a very tough time selling her “package” to Democrats – especially those among a group of 40 headed by Bart Stupak who are pro-life Democrats and don’t at all like the abortion language in the Senate bill. Reconciliation can’t fix that. And even if only half the Blue-Dogs go for her package, that leaves more than enough to defeat the bill.
As every day passes and we get closer to the mid-term elections I think it becomes less and less likely that Pelosi will get the votes she needs. There are few “courageous” politicians when it comes to jeopardizing their careers. This is one time that actually works for the people’s best interests. And I’d also guess that once the members of the House understand what reconciliation can and won’t fix, the bill’s fate is sealed.
I’m saying the bill won’t pass. That’s a guess. But it is a guess as valid as any other out there since it factors in the vast differences between the two bills in the first place, the fact that reconcilation is a very poor substitute for a normal congessional markup session and the belief that human nature will win out over party kamakazi politics with the desire to retain their jobs winning out over what Nancy Pelosi wants.