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Friday, February 19, 2010

Department of Huh

Steve Benen writes

"if the Senate is going to have to take one last shot at health care reform, this time through reconciliation"

Why is this shot the one last shot ? I fear Benen is right, but I don't know why it is so.

The amendment to the budget currently being considered by the Senate does not have to be the Senate's "one last shot at health care reform."

There can be two completely different amendments to the budget (bills passed under budget reconcilation). The first a minimal "sidecar" to get the House to accept the Senate bill plus the sidecar. Then once that sidecar and main bill are passed and signed, the 17 can advocate a totally new bill, to be passed under the budget reconciliation process, introducing a public option, oh and another introducing medicare buy in and maybe a third shifting funding from the excise tax to a tax on millionaires.

Of course, Reid will never let this happen. The prospect is just intollerable. I mean it means taht the Senate won't be able to move beyond health care reform, but rather the debate will continue on issua after issue where the vast majority of the public absolutely disagrees with the Republicans.

We can't have that. I mean if Reid allowed such idiocy he might endanger his excellent chances of retiring next year.

I'm pretty sure that the problem is really that Reid is determined to avoid re-election. So what is it ?

I have some guesses in increasing order of plausibility.

1) That trick only works once.

The 50 left more Democrats understand that Lieberman's view of morality is very asymmetric. He can do things, but if anyone else does they must be punished forever. Basically the trick of compromising to get to 60 then using reconciliation to take back the concessions can only be played once. If the Democrats play that trick, then Lieberman will never vote for cloture again.

So what ? Lieberman (and Nelson) can get the Democrats to 59. What's the point of getting to 59 ? It is clear that no motion for cloture on an important controversial bill will pass for the forseable future. Using reconciliation to take back concessions on the health care bill implies that nothing important will be accomplished by any other means for the forseable future. Not using reconciliation to take back concessions on the health care bill also implies that nothing important will be accomplished by any other means for the forseable future.

to break a promise which was implicit (or at most made explicitly by someone else).

2) It is possible that Democrats fear the return of the zombie death panels lie. Some Republicans have scared people claiming that provisions which aren't in the bills are in the bills. More have scared people by claiming that the bills will lead to something bad, even if it is not in the bill. One way to respond to this argument is to promise that the matter will be closed for the forceable future once the bill is signed. I don't think that any Democrat has made any such promise (quite the opposite many promise that they will continue working on improvements). However, Democrats might fear that a failure to respect a promise which they definitely haven't made will play into Republicans hands.

That is, maybe they aren't moralistic moral idiots but rather cowards afraid of their own shadows and sure that the people really agree with Republicans no matter what they say when polled.

Well it is true that the timidity of Democrats knows no bounds and is invulnerable to evidence. But the polling evidence on the public option is overwhelming. It was the focus of the Republican noise machine for months and still has majority support. The few Democrats representing states where a majority of voters oppose the public option can vote no. Basically all Democratic Senators gain unless one more month of lies makes all the difference. I don't think even Senators can be crazy enough to believe that.

3) Democratic Senators think that to compromise to get 60 votes, then use the reconciliation process to take back the concessions is dishonest and imoral.

This assumes that politicians are constrained by morality. I'm afraid that this might be true of Democrats. It also assumes a totally sick and twisted conception of right and wrong such that a promise privately or implicitly made to Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson is more important than the national interest. I'm afraid that enough Democrats in the Senate are both constrained by their perception of right and wrong and moral idiots that a reform supported on the merits by 50 or more Senators wouldn't pass because to pass it would be

This would mean that Democrats feel constrained by the need to play fair with 2 senators who gave their word then took it back (Lieberman supported medicare buy in before he opposed it, Nelson supported the team of ten compromise before he demanded the cornhusker kickback in exchange for reiterating his support -- both are clearly willing to break their word in order to be the 60th vote). Yet they are our only protection from Republicans who are clearly completely uncontrained by anything.

Is there any other possibility ?

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