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The Long and Winding Road
Author: BobR    Date: 03/12/2010 11:47:47

With Harry Reid's announcement yesterday that the Senate will use reconciliation to tweak out the changes between the Senate bill and the changes the House wishes to make, it looks like Health Care reform may actually become a reality. It's been a long time getting here, with many strange twists and turns along the way.

Who can forget the "Town Hall Meetings", with all the paid protesters scaring the dickens out of the House Reps? The deliberate lies were flying so fast and furiously that web sites were created to counter the propaganda (including the site Raine and I created: HealthcareReformMyths.org). Between the Republicans and FAUX News, people were ready to believe that their grannies would be given the Logan's Run treatment and put to sleep like an unwanted pet. They've even gone after an an 11 year old by who lost his mother due to lack of health insurance. The venom and the misinformation campaign was (and still is) horrendous, and has left people wondering whether this bill is a good thing.

But of course - it IS a good thing. It's not everything we wanted. It seems the Dems didn't just cave on single-payer, they dismissed it before even getting started. Instead of using it as a bargaining chip to get to a public option, they started with the public option and mostly lost that. There are provisions to help people who can't get or can't afford insurance, but these provisions won't control overall costs as well as a public option would. Non-profit insurance will be taking that role, which may actually bode well for the long term. Most European countries have a type of single-payer system which pays private non-profit insurance companies.

But last year, the Senate and the House both passed bills. Let me say that again: both houses of Congress passed bills. The next step is to bring them into agreement. The problem in the Senate of course is that even though the bill has already passed, any changes require a 60 vote super-majority, and that seems like an impossibility now. So the only choices are:
  1. The House passes the Senate bill as-is, and that's what we go with.

  2. The House and Senate agree to minor tweaks, and the Senate passes those changes using the budget reconciliation process with a 51 vote simple majority.

  3. The House passes the Senate bill as-is, and they make changes after the fact.
It's unlikely that option 1 will happen. The House is more progressive than the Senate, and they are not happy that some provisions are not in the bill.

Option 2 is the one that everyone is expecting. Harry Reid's announcement yesterday pretty much confirms that.

The Republicans are upset and are trying to confuse the American public into thinking the Democrats are using some sort of dirty trick to pass the entire bill. This is of course false as well as being disingenuous. It's false because the bill has already passed... the only items that will be handled by budget reconciliation are the changes to be made to make the House happy. It's disingenuous because this procedure has been used by the Republicans 3 times as often as the Democrats have used it. The GOP will try some tricks of their own to derail the reconciliation process, but a former parliamentarian has said that the GOP is way off base on this one.

The Senate Parliamentarian, however, may be putting the Dems' strategy in jeopardy. According to reports, option 3 may be required. Forcing the House to pass the Senate bill and doing the changes after the bill is signed by President Obama is certainly doable, but requires a level of trust between House and Senate democrats that doesn't seem to be very strong at this point.

However - for Harry Reid to make the announcement is indicative of his confidence (likely on assurances from Rep. Nancy Pelosi) that the House will be able to muster enough votes to pass the Senate bill.

In a bizarre coincidence (and conspiracy theorists are probably in a lather over this), Harry Reid's wife and daughter were severe injured in an auto accident yesterday. His wife has a broken neck.

Best wishes to Senator Reid's family. And courage to the House and Senate to make the final votes to get this thing finally done.

14 comments (Latest Comment: 03/12/2010 23:12:23 by livingonli)
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