Explaining The Democratic Health Care Strategery And Why It’s Going To Fail

I’ve heard a lot of confusion about what the Democrats are trying to do on healthcare and the chances of it passing; so I wanted to do a brief, easy-to-understand-as-possible post to explain where we’re at in the process.

The Democrats have passed a bill through the House and through the Senate, but they’re different bills and to reconcile them would require another vote in the House and Senate. Scott Brown’s victory makes it impossible for the Democrats to get 60 votes; so this route is not open to them.

So, the strategy that’s left open to them is to use a two part strategy: The House Democrats vote for the Senate bill that has already passed “as is” and then the Senate “fixes” that bill with a budgetary procedure called “reconciliation” that requires only 51 votes to get through the Senate.

Despite what you’ll hear from Democrats, the reconciliation process is not designed to handle a health care bill of this sort. So, even if the Senate parliamentarian were to allow the bill to go through the process, everything that doesn’t directly impact the budget would be cut out of the bill. Moreover, although the Republicans can’t filibuster the reconciliation process per se, they can use parliamentary tactics to keep adding amendments in committee, which would mean the process would likely take weeks or even months to complete. At that point, a bill could be sent to the House to be passed.

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Now, since a health care bill slammed through via reconciliation would look like swiss cheese, the Democrats would need to sign off on the bill the Senate has already passed, “as is.” In other words, these Congressmen would be voting for the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” and abortion language that has already been declared unacceptable by Bart Stupak and Company.

So, here’s the $24,000 question: Can they pass it? The answer: It seems VERY unlikely. Here’s why: At the moment, the Democrats don’t have enough votes in the Senate for reconciliation. Even if they did manage to get the votes in the Senate, it doesn’t seem possible to get a bill through the House any longer.

Keep in mind, the House bill only passed 220-215 the first time. Since then, John Murtha has died, Robert Wexler has resigned, and Neil Abercrombie resigns at the end of this month. Joseph Cao, the only Republican to vote for the plan last time, is saying he won’t do it this time and Bart Stupak is not only saying he’s not on board because it lacks his anti-abortion language, but he’s suggesting he has a dozen other Democratic “yes” votes from last time that will flip as well.

Could Pelosi manage to whip up that many votes from her caucus? Probably not. The Democrats who voted “no” last time did so, for the most part, because they were in competitive districts and feared the consequences of voting for the bill. Now, the bill is much less popular and would be likely to continue to drop in popularity if it were passed through a parliamentary trick like reconciliation. So, getting 12-15 Democrats to make what would likely be career-ending votes on this legislation would probably be beyond Nancy Pelosi’s abilities.

So, my honest opinion? There’s maybe a 1-in-20 chance that they can get a big bill through at this point.

PS: You may notice that I haven’t talked about Obama’s “plan.” That’s because it would need 60 votes in the Senate and therefore has no chance of passing. In other words, it’s a PR move that will never actually turn into real legislation.

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