Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Health Care Follies Continue

Interesting nugget from a Time article that talks about Chuckles Schumer and Dick Durbin fighting over Harry Reid's position as Senate Majority Leader, even before Reid possibly loses his election this fall...
The first time leadership aides noticed something was amiss was during the health care debate last November, when Schumer made some notable overtures to the progressive wing of the party. He'd previously taken flack from progressives for his championing of Kirsten Gillibrand, a moderate Dem from upstate New York who was appointed to Hillary Clinton's seat. Just after Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus passed a bipartisan health reform bill out of his committee, Schumer demanded that the public option — a liberal provision that provided government competition to private insurers — be put back in. Reid initially bowed to Schumer's pressure but weeks later had to drop the provision in order to secure all 60 Democratic votes to overcome a Republican filibuster threat. That delay would come back to haunt the Democrats after the New Year, when Scott Brown's surprise victory in the Massachusetts Senate race cost them their critical 60th vote.
I'm thinking that if health care reform fails, the Tea Party movement should send thank you notes to Schumer for being an ambitious jerk. On more substantive matters, The Hill has another Whip count, with the expected number of no votes on health care from Dems to be 25 as of now; if my math is correct, Pelosi can't afford to lose more than 12-15 more Dems or the game is over. In other words, Bart Stupak's coalition will probably decide it. Unless, of course, more Democrats follow the lead of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is now threatening to torpedo the bill unless their concerns over illegal immigrants get addressed as part of the package...
Since last fall, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members have kept quiet, at least publicly, about their objections to the immigration provisions in the Senate bill.

The Senate language would prohibit illegal immigrants’ buying healthcare coverage from the proposed health exchanges. The House-passed bill isn’t as restrictive, but it does — like the Senate bill — bar illegal immigrants from receiving federal subsidies to buy health insurance.

Hispanic Democrats say they haven’t moved from their stance that they will not vote for a healthcare bill containing the Senate’s prohibitions.

...On Wednesday, members of the CHC privately acknowledged they’ve told their leaders that anyone who is assuming they’ve backed away from their position is in for a rude awakening.

“The [Hispanic] Caucus didn’t want to raise it as an issue too early,” one Hispanic Democrat said Wednesday. “But it’s real. It’s a problem.”

Those alarm bells have apparently been heard. CHC Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said she and others have, on behalf of two dozen Hispanic Democrats, been in discussions with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders about how to resolve the matter.

“And we will continue having discussions,” Velazquez said.

However, it is unlikely that the Senate will be able to change the immigration provisions under reconciliation rules. And even if it is deemed possible, there may not be enough support in either chamber of Congress to do it.

Not every member of the CHC would stand in the way of healthcare over the immigration issue. As a House leader, it would be unlikely for Becerra to vote against the president’s signature domestic policy priority. And centrist Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said the Senate language is “not a deal-killer” for him.
Somewhere, Congressman Joe Wilson is laughing.  That last statement by Cuellar probably gives away the game -- as noted by Ed Morrissey, the Caucus members probably just want an assurance from President Obama that he will indeed take up immigration reform this year, as he promised last year. But if the bill starts to look unlikely to pass, the votes against it could snowball based on people suddenly discovering "principled" reasons for opposition.

Meanwhile, perhaps we're getting closer to the final bill, or to a real end to it, as Speaker Pelosi and House Majority Leader Hoyer have now canceled all Committee hearings and gone behind closed doors with the party leadership, providing us with more of the transparent, open government promised by the President. Jake Tapper says a compromise bill is close to being complete.

Maybe they have the votes and are doing a little champagne toast in Ted Kennedy's honor or something, but I tend to think that if they had the votes, a vote would be scheduled before another Democratic congressman melts down in an ethics scandal (or worse, disclosed more details about what goes on in the House gym showers).

So do they have the votes?  My thought is that if they did, we wouldn't see ideas like this get floated...
House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday. Slaughter is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version.

Slaughter has not taken the plan to Speaker Pelosi as Democrats await CBO scores on the corrections bill. "Once the CBO gives us the score we'll spring right on it, " she said.
And I thought reconciliation was a bad idea politically. By contrast, this is toxic. The Heritage Foundation refers to this nicely as "procedural fraud." Forget the optics of the issue -- this is one sure way to guarantee that we'll be debating the legitimacy of the bill as law forever. In their fervor to pass the bill, Democrats are undermining Congress and the legitimacy of the legislative process. What's really bad is that I don't think I'm exaggerating, if they pursue this latest procedural flimflam. Deeming the bill passed -- I'm sure the Democrats will be chagrined when this gets used against them some day in the future.

As to whether they have the votes, Pelosi has already indicated the White House's March 18th deadline may not be workableMichael Barone says the votes don't look like they are there yet. We'll see if that changes, or if the Dems merely change the rules again -- maybe the Democrats will find a way to claim that a minority is a majority.

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