Message From A Senate Source To Democrats In The House: “We Will Kill Your ‘Fix'”

First off, here’s the two-step Democrats want to execute on health care:

1) The House passes the bill that has already been approved by the Senate. At that point, Obama can sign the bill and it’s the law. However, ideally they will also pass a 2nd bill via reconciliation.

2) The House and Senate pass another bill via reconciliation that’s designed to make changes to the Senate bill. Reconciliation can only be used for budget related issues, so issues like abortion can’t be dealt with that way.

Last night, I talked with some of my sources in the Senate about how the Democrats’ strategy is looking. Here’s what one of them told me:

“It doesn’t matter what the Senate does. If reconciliation passes, they get their bill. If the GOP kills it, they get their bill.”

The point the source was trying to make there was that there was too much focus on reconciliation because the real action is going to be in the House. The moment they pass that Senate bill, Obama can sign it into law whether reconciliation happens or not.

Of course, it’s not quite so simple: It’s seems extremely unlikely that the House will move on any bill unless they believe there will be a second bill passed via reconciliation. According to my source in the Senate, if that’s what they’re hoping for, they’re going to be hoping in vain. Here’s the message my source had for Democrats in the House about reconciliation:

“We will not make this better for you thru a ‘fix.’ We will kill your ‘fix’ and you will have to live with this crappy bill you don’t even want.”

How will they kill the fix when they can’t filibuster the bill? By offering a flurry of legitimate amendments to the bill in committee.

This is where we get into totally new ground. Despite what you are hearing from Democrats, reconciliation was never intended to be used for something like a takeover of 1/6 of the US economy. So, that’s unprecedented and the rulings of the parliamentarian may be hard to forecast because of that.

Additionally, no party has ever tried to hold up the process by offering an unlimited number of legitimate amendments. There are claims that Joe Biden, as VP, has the right to end amendments by declaring them to be dilatory. The Republican line on that is that as long as the amendments are legitimate, Biden isn’t allowed to shut them down:

“It’s our understanding that we will be able to offer lots of amendments. There are certain types of things we can’t do, like offer an amendment to read the US code into the record, but regular vote stuff — yes.”

So, at the end of the day, could we see the Democrats try to use arcane Senate rules to game the system in an illegitimate attempt to take over 1/6 of the US economy? At the moment, that’s exactly what Obama, Reid, and Pelosi intend to do, but it will still require the House to vote the bill through. In an election year, when the health care bill in question is about as popular as anthrax, will dozens of Democrats be willing to give up their congressional seats to pass this bill? Time will tell, but the odds seem to be heavily against it at the moment.

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