Ping pong: Dems may ask House to pass Senate ObamaCare bill with no changes

posted at 4:46 pm on December 8, 2009 by Allahpundit

Smells like a bluff, but one that’s interesting enough to warrant a post. The Senate is the main obstacle to a final bill, of course, so if Reid finds a way to push something through, in theory House Dems should be so relieved that they’ll sign off on whatever he hands them to avoid making him run the gauntlet again. The left has convinced itself, per 1994, that passing nothing is the worst-case scenario for them politically, even though there’s reason to believe that passing an unpopular bill will hurt them worse, and Obama himself is willing to sign any crappy plan they put in front of him. Why shouldn’t Pelosi’s caucus feel the same?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is currently negotiating what’s known as a “manager’s amendment.” That amendment includes large and small concerns that senators want worked out before voting to end a filibuster. If Democrats decide to ping-pong the bill, the manager’s amendment becomes, in effect, the only place to work out differences…

“You would need pre-conference negotiations. That pre-conference negotiation would be what ends up in the manager’s amendment,” [Jim Kessler, head of the group Third Way] said. “Essentially, the manager’s amendment becomes the new conference.”…

The differences between the House and Senate approaches are legion and House sources say the lower chamber is very unlikely to rubber stamp a bill agreed to by the White House and Senate. The House relies, to a significant extent, on a tax increase on the wealthy to fund reform; the Senate instead taxes some health insurance plans. The House allows the government to negotiate for lower drug prices and otherwise requires a greater commitment from drug makers than the Senate bill does. The House plan covers more people and includes a public option; the fate of a government plan on the Senate side is uncertain. Major parts of the House plan kick in a year earlier — in 2013 — than in the Senate bill. And then there’s abortion…

[Progressive House leader Raul] Grijalva told HuffPost that the strategy would require progressives to back down so that the president could get a symbolic win. “Progressives will be jammed into a corner and once again asked, ‘You’ve got to do this for the president so he can give a State of the Union address,'” he said. “As much as the State of the Union becomes critical, this is not something we can get beaten up on to vote for.”

Given that this was fed to a progressive outlet like HuffPo at a moment when Reid’s negotiating on the public option, it sounds like a case of liberals trying to alarm their base into turning up the heat on him. If they think they’re stuck with whatever comes out of the Senate — which, by and large, they will be — then they have to make their stand now, not in conference committee later when Reid will inevitably plead that he can’t hold 60 votes if there are major changes. Although, frankly, I’m not sure how true that is: If the Senate passes its own bill, the pressure from Democrats on Blue Dogs like Nelson and Lincoln not to derail the dream of universal health care at the last moment by bailing on the final bill after it comes back from the conference will be enormous. They’ve got Reid over a barrel now, but if he gets to 60, he’ll have them over a barrel in the end.

Speaking of the public option, Queen Olympia’s sounding unimpressed with the latest idea of expanding a program that’s already destined for bankruptcy. Lieberman is conspicuously noncommittal, though, and HuffPo (again) is hearing that there’s “growing enthusiasm” for it on the Hill. Hmmmm.

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