Health reform process update

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Mar 25, 2010 at 11:00

Reconciliation bill changed, still expected to pass today
As has been reported widely this morning, including by David Sirota, the Senate parliamentarian changed the reconciliation bill earlier today.   This will require another vote in the House of Representatives.

The final vote in the Senate is expected at 2pm today.  Steny Hoyer expects the House to vote on the bill today as well, a few hours after that.

The argument that any changes to the reconciliation in the bill would have defeated the bill does not appear to be holding up.  However, these are minor changes, and so it could be argued that any substantial changes to the bill would have caused a more serious problem.

Public Option
As far as the public option is concerned, there are good reasons to be cynical right now.  Either the Democratic leadership doesn't care about it all that much, or they are actively working against it (I choose the former).  House Whip James Clyburn says they have the votes to pass the public option.  However, Speaker Pelosi said during a meeting last week with progressive bloggers that she was told the Senate did not have the votes (I was in attendance at that meeting), and as such did not try to add one to the reconciliation bill.

On the Senate side, Harry Reid has promised a vote on the public option, but all Democratic Senators have ruled out any strengthening amendments for this reconciliation bill, including a public option.  So, the public option is therefore not allowed into the bill, and there is no public vote to verify the claim that there are not enough votes in the Senate.  We are just supposed to believe that there are not enough, without any names ever being named.

Whether there are actually 50 votes in the Senate for the public option as a stand alone amendment is a debatable point, as here at Open Left we only ever proved there are 50 votes for a health reform bill that included a public option.  What is not debatable is that the Democratic leadership did not try very hard, or possibly even at all, to include a public option in the reconciliation bill.

Republicans still taking process to the extreme, Democrats need to respond in kind
During most of March, Republicans declared that passing legislation with only 51 votes in the Senate was THE MOST TOTALITARIAN MOVE EVAH.  Now, to no one's surprise, Republicans are voting to allow only 51 votes to change the reconciliation bill in many ways, including non-budgetary items that run afoul of the Byrd Rule, as long as they believe those changes help defeat the reconciliation bill.  To put it bluntly, Republicans are willing to use any procedural means necessary to achieve their goals.

As such, the best move for Democrats is try and get reconciliation instructions for as much as possible in the budget bill that will be passed next month.  This includes reconciliation instructions for health reform that will allow for a public option to pass in a new reconciliation bill, but it should also include things like energy and education, too.

These reconciliation bills are just about the only way Democrats can still govern.  For example, Tom Coburn is going to "pull a Bunning" and filibuster an extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits.  The popularity, and immediate necessity, of such benefits far exceeds anything in the health reform package.  If Democrats can't even get that done on time because of frakked up Senate procedure, the budget bill needs to leave Democrats with an option to pass as much legislation as possible with only 51 votes in 2010.

Republicans are using whatever procedural options they have to achieve their ends.  At this point, Democrats have to respond in kind.

Chris Bowers :: Health reform process update

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This: (4.00 / 3)
"As far as the public option is concerned, there are good reasons to be cynical right now. "

"Right now" is not credible.  Too much prior circumstantial evidence that already illustrated the point as argued in detail by Glenn Greenwald. Too much reliance on manipulation of process and getting down in the weeds using process to avoid the issue, while magically getting around process when they really wanted to pass something.

Not sure how one can just now be arriving at being cynical.

You managed to be cynical about a call to cynicism (4.00 / 4)
I very much appreciate that ability.

(I ain't kidding and this is not snark)

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
More realism than cynicism (4.00 / 2)
Chris is the activist. If the activists  such as himself weren't already cynical about how process and other tools have been used to block progress causes (outside of discussing filibuster reform)- that's problematic.  

[ Parent ]
It's hard to do anything (0.00 / 0)
when you're constantly, incessantly cynical.  You have to at least see some chance of success to even get up in the morning.

[ Parent ]
Your argument is a license to failure. Not mine. (4.00 / 3)
You are more likely to accomplish your goals by reading people as they are than by pretending they are something other than what the evidence suggests. What you describe is just denial. Here, if a united progressive front of activists early on had understood that the Congressional Democratic leadership and the president were not really favoring the public option, but instead were using process as an excuse to placate the base by pretending to want it, are you telling me that the outcome would not have been better?  Are you saying that progressive activists together would not have been more aggressive in their posture toward the leadership? I simply don't buy into the notion that success is a product of denying who other people are. The best outcome is more likely to occur by realizing whether someone is truly fighting for the policy you want or will you have to push them to do it.  

[ Parent ]
This makes no sense... (0.00 / 0)
If they didn't want it at all, then no, nothing we would've done would change that.  As you've said all along, they enacted the legislation they wanted.

[ Parent ]
Yes, it makes sense (4.00 / 3)
If they did not want it, then you could pressure them by not buying into their spin, which only serves to accomplish their goal to through delay and other tactics. Repeating their lies as if one believes the lie serves them. Being honest about what they are doing serves better policy for the very obvious reason that you are not wasting time, money and resources. I believe that honesty is an absolute requirement of real reform because we have seen what happens in not just example but others of who is served by this sort of hide the ball process- the status quo.

[ Parent ]
Practical way this could have helped (4.00 / 3)
Early on pushing for an up or down vote on the subject as a part of the bill without regard to all the process excuses that the administration and leadership kept pushing.

The result would have been that regardless of what they wanted, the COngress and president would have had to go on record one way or the other regarding accountability for the issue rather than hiding behind process that progressives outside of congress bought into as legitimately about process rather than avoidance. Whereas the outcome favored them so long as the voting never occured on the subject, the actual voting on a popular idea such as PO would favor progressives.

The hiding favored the centrists and the status quo and harmed progressive policies like the PO.

[ Parent ]
This comment is a hell of a lot more sensical than your above one (0.00 / 0)
it also presupposes success with enough pressure.  

[ Parent ]
One reconciliation per year (0.00 / 0)
Remember, the rules state only the Senate can use reconciliation only once per year.  

per "budget" year (0.00 / 0)
This is in some sense last year's bill, and it's true that this Congress has another shot at reconciliation this calendar year.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
Senator Harkin says he is readying a second reconcilliation Bill (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
the deal was already made and it's going to be kept (4.00 / 1)
Because you can't make such a high profile deal with so many wavering House and Senate members and then double-cross them by changing the bill. How would you ever round up votes again? Of course, we think the public option is well worth a double cross, as no doubt the right-wingers think abortion is, but this kind of narrowly-defined honesty is important to politicians.  

That's not to be in denial about the big picture. Personally I think it is undeniable that bruh et al. are correct about the insincerity on the public option, and it has to be laid directly at the feet of Obama first.  

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

That's why I'm not going ballistic (4.00 / 1)
at the Dems missing this chance. I assume some surreptitiously anti-PO Dems made "no PO vote at least until primaries are over" a condition of support for HCR.

It is really a pity though, because putting the PO in in response to Republican obstructionism would be a policy win and a huge triumph politically. Getting a PO in would get the radical activists back on board and in the circumstances would make the Repubs look even more idiotic.

[ Parent ]
It is worth noting that (4.00 / 1)
according the Mike Lux yesterday, the votes were not there for the Public Option in the House.  I asked him this question point blank in the comments.

But if this vote had been held last July rather than this March, my guess is that there would have been the votes.

You mean when it was all being held together and promoted as a package unit by Obama? (0.00 / 0)
If we supported this whole package then, we wouldn't get single payer! like we have now..... wait.. wait

You mean if we'd,  


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
The critical mistake (0.00 / 0)
in the HCR debate was giving the opposition time to organize.  If the Bill had been voted on in July the political environment around it would have been much more favorable.  In that environment I think we would have gotten a PO.  

That was the point I was trying inartfully to make.  

[ Parent ]
I was being flippant, not about your comment, which is apt and pertinent (4.00 / 1)
But if this vote had been held last July rather than this March, my guess is that there would have been the votes.

My joke is that pssibly if we all had pulled together back then, we would have already passed not just the house version of the public option as Obama was pushing, but possibly more since.

We'll never know of course, and we'll see what happens next.

But I encourage a few carrots in the carrot and stick method of behaviour modification.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
For the millionth time (4.00 / 5)
For a controversial bill, the votes are never there unless and until the leadership goes and finds them. The votes weren't there for hcr until Pelosi and team put pressure on members, Obama initiated Dennis into the mile high club, etc.

[ Parent ]
Plus (4.00 / 1)
Pelosi has never publicly stated that the House didn't have the votes--she blamed the Senate. Theater.  

[ Parent ]
Yes thats right, these elected people, these hundreds of elected people (4.00 / 1)
dont feel like "the elect" - they feel like peons, waiting to be told what to do by Pelosi, they all have one opinion, just like the posters here on openleft, a shining band of loyalty and comity and common sense, just like here.

And just like here, they respond well being told what to do by colleagues.

So its just "the boss" who is at fault, and therefor the entire organization. It makes it so much easier to understand that way.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
The only response I have (0.00 / 0)
is that 'the votes aren't there' is a vague thing to say--it may well have been that there were 50 democratic 'hard no's' before Pelosi started talking or something.  This, of course, is damn unlikely considering that the House passed HCR with a public option months ago, but theoretically possible, especially considering that the full Stupak language was necessary to get THAT through.  

[ Parent ]
Maybe (0.00 / 0)
that is true.  I am only relaying Mike's opinion based on his involvement - which was that there weren't the votes in the House.

[ Parent ]
MIke's argument might have more meaning if (4.00 / 2)
a) There was not an attempt to whip up the vote by others outside of the Senate when those in the Senate claimed the votes were not there and b) the minute it looked like the votes may be in the Senate according to some the Senate leadership whipped against it. I know the House is not the Senate. The point is that this all seems like excuses meant to justify what the leadership wants in the first place, because the minute they are challenged there is always some excuse to pass the hot potato along  to someone else or some behind the scenes sheenigans to push for the outcome wanted.  

[ Parent ]
Color me surprised (4.00 / 3)
Democrats pass up free chance #1,032 to include a public option of any kind, Chris Bowers gives them benefit of doubt for 1,031 time.  

I can't imagine why we can't get anything progressive done in the USA.

It is not without some sadness (0.00 / 0)
that the WH and Congressional leadership will drown the PO in the bathtub.

A question about the reconciliation process (0.00 / 0)
that's probably been asked and answered but which I'm too lazy to look up:

What happens if by some miracle the senate passes an amendment that adds the PO to the reconciliation bill, then passes the amended bill (which also strips out the Pell Grant language), the bill passes parliamentary muster, gets sent to the house for passage, but the house cannot or will not pass such a bill?

Does the house have to then pass yet another amended recon bill that strips out the PO and send it back to the senate for final passage, or does it send the bill back to the senate as is, with instructions to strip out he PO, waits for the senate to do this, and then passes this newer recon bill with the PO stripped out? Or is either possible?

Of course, realistically the senate won't allow a PO amendment to be added to the bill if it believes that the house can't or won't pass it, making this question moot (and in all likelihood it wouldn't do this even if it believed that the house could and would pass it, making it even more moot). But I'm just curious from a procedural perspective.

(Note: I just asked the same question over at DKos, fwiw.)

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton


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