Health care reform by hook or by crook

Yesterday, Tom Maguire accurately described the state of the play on Obamacare:

The Senate bill seemed to be approaching its death knell and only a favorable report from the Government Budget Office had a prayer of resuscitating it. Reviewing a progression of NYT headlines, Tom ended up on the story of the day and his view of it.

Keep hope alive!

The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, on Wednesday sent the tentative proposal to the Congressional Budget Office for cost analysis, and Democrats acknowledged that the bill's fate hinged on the results. In that sense, the deal was less a comprehensive accord than a decision to keep the process moving.

Mr. Reid described the broad outline of the plan at an hourlong meeting of his caucus late Wednesday afternoon. But as they emerged from the session, many senators, including some who helped broker the agreement, said that they had learned little and that there were many outstanding concerns.

"General concepts, but nothing very specific at all," said Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, who was in the group of 10.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said: "There was no explanation. It was sort of go team, go."

It's fate hinges on the CBO! Reid doesn't have a deal, he has a desperate attempt to keep the process alive! Such drama, and so suddenly.

My guess - Congress needs a bill to avoid a rout in 2010. Obama, on the other hand, needs a bill by 2012, in the same way that Bill Clinton needed welfare reform prior to his re-election bid.

So - Obama will provide modest rhetorical cover to Congressional efforts and will certainly sign anything they send him, but he is done with the big speeches promoting a bill that is even less popular than he is. Of course, his silence may not hurt; it certainly does not appear that his speaking has helped.

Today in the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone builds on that theme that the Democrats will vote for anything at this point and Obama will sign it and declare victory no matter how deeply flawed the bill is and no matter how far is deviates from the original plan. 

Citing Greg Sargent, Barone observes that Pelosi is no longer insisting on a "public option" in any health care bill.

This suggests that Pelosi may have another strategy in mind: Have the House pass whatever bill the Senate passes. That would eliminate the need for a conference committee and the negotiations that would take place there. She might have a problem getting 218 votes for a bill with the Senate's language on abortion-Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak has threatened that 20 Democrats won't vote for such a bill-but she undoubtedly has a list of House Democrats who voted against the House bill but who might be arm-twisted into voting for the Senate bill.

House passage of a Senate bill would give Democratic leaders what they say they want-pass something, pass anything at all, avoid the failure of not being able to pass anything. If there are problems, fix them later. The president would certainly sign anything that comes to his desk.

If there's any serious possibility of this scenario occurring, then the Senate vote on cloture will in effect be the final vote on health care. In that case, those who are trying to persuade Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and Evan Bayh to vote against cloture can make the argument that a vote for cloture is a vote for enacting whatever makeshift bill Harry Reid manages to concoct.





I would never discount anything Barone says and urge everyone to press the Senators named to vote against cloture.


Clarice Feldman

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