How They Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Reconciliation

Matt Yglesias:

The clearest path forward for health reform is for House Democrats to (a) pass the Senate bill, and (b) pass a “sidecar” of amendments that deal with reconciliation-eligible topics, allowing House leaders to improve the bill by modifying the “cadillac” tax and replacing the Senate’s state-based exchanges with a nationwide exchange. But Carrie Budoff Brown reports that not every Senator likes this idea:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Monday that he would oppose any health care reform bill with a national insurance exchange, which he described as a dealbreaker. [. . .] If Senate Democrats still had 60 votes, this would matter a lot.

[. . .] The real point, however, is that Nelson’s views are irrelevant. The exchange set-up will either be determined by reconciliation or else nothing will be done. Either way, he doesn’t matter.

(Emphasis supplied.) They are beginning to get it. They have the best of both worlds from their perspective - a locked in Senate vote that can be amended with the agreement of only 50 Senators. Gawd forbid they get ambitious about it.

Speaking for me only

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    Except (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:12:03 AM EST
    That tiny little fact that most people in the country, in poll after poll, hate this bill now.  Whether it's rational or not, or they hate it without knowing what they really hate about it, it doesn't matter.  It's all about the optics now.

    My sense is, if they pass anything called "Health Care Reform" right now, it will spell doom for the Dems.

    They hate the bill because... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by pluege on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:24:33 PM EST
    of the things that could and should be taken out or changed in reconciliation:

    • chuck the Nebraska sweetheart deal
    • chuck the excise tax
    • tax the filthy rich
    • go with national exchanges
    • chuck the choice restrictions
    • add the House's expansion of Medicaid
    • add early medicare buy-in
    • put in a real public option

    if dems turn around and undo all the crap they did to suck up to the craptacular nelson, LIEberman, snowe, landrieu, bayh, conrad, baucus, and lincoln, they might actually have HCR. And that bill will have wide-spread public support. They might even salvage 2010 with real HCR.



    Which is worse? (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by BrassTacks on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 04:48:34 PM EST
    To pass something, anything, so that they can campaign and say they did something other than waste an entire year and get nothing?  Or is it better to do nothing, as the polls show most voters want now?  If they do nothing, republican opponents will have a field day with the wasted year.  If they pass a bill that most voters oppose, republicans will have a field day with that.  Which is the least harmful to democrats?  I honestly do not know.  

    One person (none / 0) (#35)
    by kidneystones on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 07:55:30 PM EST
    is responsible for the failures. Once named, everything gets a whole lot easier.

    I'm sick of being pressured and bullied by the WH to defend policies that are clearly un-workable and that only benefit the richest portions of the country. If I have to pay the price of standing apart from the Washington establishment that is out of touch with voters, so be it. I consider myself accountable to the voters of my district. I've done my best to compromise and work with the president, who is supposed to lead, not just talk.

    The only people who stand to benefit from jamming a bill through are Reid, Hoyer, Pelosi, Obama. They keep their jobs: it's a Dem victory.

    Take one for the team, why don't ya!


    They want it passed (none / 0) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:14:39 AM EST
    And they can get it done through a fix.

    Hell, if they want it bad enough, they can agree to elimination of the excise tax, a public option, a national exchange, etc.


    Yup, (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:17:13 AM EST
    They could pass a best of all worlds bill with reconciliation now.

    Is the PO (none / 0) (#7)
    by lilburro on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:22:29 AM EST
    realistic?  I think they could get the qualifying age for Medicare lowered.  I doubt they will even do that though.

    Depends on what you mean by "realistic" (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:23:13 AM EST
    The PO had majority support in both chambers not long ago.

    Bargaining is an interesting thing (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:27:18 AM EST
    What is realistic for 50 Senators? 218 House members?

    Who is left (none / 0) (#17)
    by lilburro on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:50:48 AM EST
    to negotiate for it?  

    However, maybe the House folks will look at the Scott Brown polling in Union households and realize the massive base buttering that must be done.


    issue too big to microtarget (none / 0) (#36)
    by beowulf on Wed Jan 27, 2010 at 01:31:09 AM EST
    They need to be focusing on what the general public wants (public option, progressive taxation).  If they try to butter up the unions with a special exemption, the bill will still be seen as the dogfood it is except now unions will be portrayed as a bunch of Ben Nelsons, selling out others as long as their beak is wet.  Not good for the party, for labor or (assuming Congress cares) the public.

    Yes, but (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:24:43 AM EST
    Do the PEOPLE want this bill passed?  You're right - they don't care how a bill is passed or how it isn't...but they care IF a bill they don't like is passed.  And right now - most people don't like this bill.

    Again (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:26:41 AM EST
    you want me to discuss some post i did not write.

    No they do not want a lot of that (none / 0) (#18)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:59:32 AM EST
    other mess of a bill, but they do want reform. If they use reconciliation to address the budgetary issues, several of the people in the Dem caucus who were doing everything they could to impede reform are irrelevant.  Then all they have to do is dare Nelson and the GOP members to vote against people with pre-existing conditions.  You see, had they taken this route from the begining, they would have had much more political power on the issues and would not have had to negotiate with people who were intent on inserting political poison pills at every juncture.

    The Republicans (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:02:46 PM EST
    Can read polls too.  Most of them (the vocal ones on TV, anyway) are all for changing the pre-existing bans that most insurance plans have. They also want to do away with lifetime caps for things like cancer treatments.

    That's what they say. (none / 0) (#20)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:10:54 PM EST
    But the point is that if they had approached this giant problem in parts rather than in an omnibus bill, they would have been more successful and much less susceptible to the treachery of the opposition and the lobbyists who are paying them to block reform.  Either Reid and Obama are idiots or they didn't really want to pass healthcare reform - I'm seriously thinking this now that Reid has come out and said that he was wasting his time with President Snowe and because they said so early on that so many things were impossible to pass.  They left themselves open to attack and derailment on so many fronts, it makes you want to take their dry powder away from them - not only do they keep it dry - they let it get stolen right out from under their noses.

    I think "the People" want (none / 0) (#27)
    by MKS on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:26:56 PM EST
    a better economy and don't see how a health care bill will help that....If a bill passes and works, then the Democrats will be fine...

    The Republicans have no trouble jamming through unpopular legislation.  The Terri Schiavo bill comes to mind.  60-70% of the public opposed that bill, yet the Republicans passed that bill pronto, no problems....-


    If I were a Dem House member up for re-election (none / 0) (#12)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:28:34 AM EST
    I'd insist on all those features plus a speeding up of the benefits so voters would want to vote for me come November.

    It is no longer a question of what House Dems want, it is what they need to survive November.


    I sort of feel like we - the people - (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:16:50 PM EST
    are the ones reconciliation is going to do an end run around, and not for the sake of passing great legislation, but because (1) they've already spent a year on this and don't want it to go to "waste," (2) the pressure is on to give Obama a big win and (3) they are incapable of learning from their mistakes.

    A whole year's worth of work should have produced a better product.  If they had built a bridge across a gaping chasm this way, no one would want to drive on it, and forcing vehicles to use it, and requiring they pay a toll to use it, would not increase anyone's chances of making it safely to the other side.  If it were a house that had been built this way, no one would want to buy it, or live in it, and making everyone own one and live in one would not make anyone grateful for the little bit of unsafe shelter at such a high cost.  

    A triumph of process over content will be a hollow victory, will encourage more incompetence, and re-charge Obama for his next round of not-Democratic initiatives.

    Ooh, goody - I can hardly wait.

    Jacking a bill through (none / 0) (#2)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:14:36 AM EST
    like that would, and should be, political suicide.

    And the Demos know.

    I repeat.

    Toss it in the trash and start over with a simple, easy to understand plan for a single payer bill based on the Medicare model that every one pays for through a national sales tax. (You can exempt some items in the name of "fairness" if you want.)

    That would pass.

    These corrupt actions and hi-jinks are just going to provide no changes and a Repub Congress!

    Nah (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:15:08 AM EST
    either people will like it or they won't. How it is passed won't matter.

    No (none / 0) (#28)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 02:21:43 PM EST
    The medium is the message in politics.

    Of the voters who aren't already (none / 0) (#6)
    by observed on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:17:57 AM EST
    decided, only a tiny fraction will even know how the bill gets passed.

    Only a tiny fraction (none / 0) (#13)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:31:55 AM EST
    of voters even know what's actually in the bill.  Most rely on what Fox News and the Limbaugh/Beck/Hannity Brigade tell them is in the bill.

    The sad thing is (none / 0) (#14)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:33:18 AM EST
    Most people voting on any bill won't know everything that's in there.

    Most republicans you mean (none / 0) (#15)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:37:52 AM EST
    who are never going to so much as consider voting Democratic under any circumstances, so (to quote George W.) who cares what they think?

    No one listens (none / 0) (#29)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 02:23:30 PM EST
    to CBS, NBC, ABC, NPR, MSNBC or reads the NYT, LAT, Chicago Trib, AJ&C???

    Who knew?


    Not as many watch any (none / 0) (#31)
    by Cream City on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 02:45:17 PM EST
    of those compared to Fox's numbers.  But you knew that.

    Sure, people read/watch/listen to all (none / 0) (#32)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 03:16:08 PM EST
    those outlets - doesn't mean they are being well-informed or educated on legislation or other issues that are important.  Well, unless it's about Michael Jackson or Tiger Woods, in which case, the media can and do devote countless hours to reporting on the minutiae of their lives and deaths and falls from grace.  Which is why more people can tell you how many women have claimed to have slept with Tiger than can tell you what is in the health care legislation.

     Didn't the media reporting in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq teach us anything?


    There is no down side for Dems (none / 0) (#22)
    by pluege on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:16:16 PM EST
    jamm it through. Obama and the vichy dems have already made sure that the 2010 elections are a disaster for Dems. Dems can only go up by changing the turd they've laid so far.  

    Uh, the Congress critters (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 02:25:27 PM EST
    think losing an election a bit of a downside...

    Obama (none / 0) (#16)
    by Emma on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 11:38:42 AM EST
    made the method of passing the bill a political issue when he "warned" Democrats not to "jam" it through before Sen. Brown was seated.  It doesn't take Karl Rove to capitalize on that.

    Enough to stop reconciliation?  Who cares, since that's not really the point.

    Time to put a real public option back in (none / 0) (#21)
    by pluege on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:14:36 PM EST

    The house is the bigger problem (none / 0) (#24)
    by Manuel on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:22:29 PM EST
    The house bill just squeaked by.  How many conservative Dem votes can they get for the more middle of the road "fixed" Senate bill?

    they lost the stupak 10 with the Senate Bill (none / 0) (#26)
    by pluege on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 12:26:44 PM EST
    Middle-Class Tax Increase of this size (none / 0) (#34)
    by kidneystones on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 07:47:49 PM EST
    Is political suicide.

    Dems won one optics war in 2008 and have lost every important battle since. The most recent example is the rule of 41 that we're seeing now, a narrative most Dems subscribe to.

    The time to act was then, not now. Promising to freeze funding (one or the other) and close bases in thirty or forty Republican districts is exactly the kind of political hardball Dems voters understand and expect.

    Seniors are already half-way out the door. 80% of Americans like health care the way it is. Young voters can't afford to buy health-insurance and many of them don't have jobs.

    Individual Dems need to run against Obama and Washington and run hard. Problem is: the only people Obama and Pelosi are willing to punish for obstructionism are Dems.

    When your own leadership sees you as the preferred target, you've got a problem. Dems have a problem. Going back to voters in November to defend hand-outs for Wall St. and tax increases for the Middle class is a certain path to defeat.

    Course, Dems could always try to persuade voters that MA was actually a victory for Obama and that trimming 15 billion off a budget this size is 'belt-tightening', 'Gitmo closed in January', the system worked with the underpants bomber, Copenhagen I and II (Olympics and Climate Change) were successes, US troops are out of Iraq, deficits and unemployment are going down.

    Did I mention I quit smoking and won a Nobel. I'm universally loved. It's all good.