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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pass the Damn Senate Bill ?

I think it is clear that 2 possible outcomes remain for health care reform -- either the House passes a modifying bill as an amendment to the budget, the Senate passes that bill via the reconciliation process and the House passes both bills or there will be no bill and the Democrats will be totally hammered in November and the issue will be dead for roughly another 15 years.

It is clear that the House won't just pass the Senate bill and then try to change it via reconciliation. I think this was clearly Pelosi's favored approach and she definitely doesn't have the votes. So this is pure speculation.

I think the aims of progressives would be better served if the House just passed the Senate bill. I also think that the House progressive caucus refuses to consider this partly because of pride, but enough amateur psychology.

How can that be ? First many Senators have to reform the Senate bill or lose their jobs. The special deal for Nebraska is political poison. Second one of those senators is Harry Reid. I think that the otherwise almost certain outcome of moving on to other stuff as soon as a bill any bill is signed is unlikely for these two reasons.

Second, in order to get a sidecar bill, the House has to beg the Senate to do funny things -- to find a way to change a law before it is a law, that is, to find a way that an amendment to a bill is considered under rules different from the bill. This can be done of course (I'm sure the technical problems are cover for the fact that Reid doesn't have 50 votes lined up yet). But the Senate will exact a price. No one seriously imagines that the Senate will give up as much in the sidecar bill as they gave up in informal pre- Brown negotiations. The Senate sure will not add medicare buy in or a major shift from excise to income taxation.

However, on both of these issues, the public is strongly with the House.

I think if the House is so flexible so meek and mild as to just pass the Senate bill and then sends up a budget bill with a shift to income taxation and medicare buy in, that it will be very hard for the Senate to risist both.

Yes people will say the House is cheating, because, although all said that the Senate bill was to be modified they didn't mean it. People will say that the House just doesn't accept the fact that 60 votes are required in the Senate even though the Senate rules don't say so (never mind the constitution).

I think the House could pass such a bill. Blue dogs are blue dogs, but many are rightfully scared and will be reluctant to vote against overwhelming public opinion.

Now obviously my little daydream is just that. However, I think it is because of a failure of imagination and nerve on the part of the House progressive caucus.

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