To no one's surprise, today President Obama called on Congress to pass health reform via reconciliation over the next month:
And now it deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts - all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority.
I have therefore asked leaders in both of Houses of Congress to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks. From now until then, I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform. And I urge every American who wants this reform to make their voice heard as well.
Earlier today, after a meeting of the Senate Democratic leadership, Tom Harkin had already said the Senate was going to use reconciliation. Here is the current timeline:
As this all unfolds, the health reform bill is surprisingly making a comeback in the polls. While still not very popular, health reform has gained a net of roughly 4% over the past month, moving to only a net negative 7.7% nationally:
- Over the next week: Senate proves to House that they have the votes to pass a fix to the health reform bill via reconciliation. Simultaneously, House leaders whip to find enough votes to pass Senate health reform bill. Once both conditions have been met, the House will take up the Senate health reform bill and a reconciliation "fix" to that bill.
- By March 19th: The House passes the Senate health reform bill
- By March 20th: President Obama signs the Senate health reform bill into law
- By March 21st: House passes reconciliation bill to "fix" the Senate bill, and send it to the Senate
- By March 23rd: Senate takes up reconciliation bill.
The health reform bill is now only 1% less popular on net than when it passed the House back in November. It is actually more popular than when it passed the Senate. Further, if current trends hold, a majority of the country won't even oppose it in just a couple more days.
It is unclear what is causing the health reform bill to back a comeback. The upward rise in polling actually started before the health reform summit. If I had to just guess, my bet is that Republicans have started to focus on abstract process messaging to their own detriment. Back when Democrats had to focus on process issues like passing the bill through the Finance Committee, clearing "cloture" three times, making deals to a couple of holdout Senators, and wrangling with various constituency groups, the bill just sounded like an inside job to more Americans. Now, opponents of the bill our focusing their public messaging on the inside game, and it is hurting them.