I kind of hope they do it now, because this would simply be traffic gold.
The GOP Senate leadership has privately settled on a strategy to derail health reform if Dems try to pass the Senate bill with a fix through reconciliation, aides say: Unleash an endless stream of amendments designed to stall for time and to force Dems to take untenable votes…
Senator Judd Gregg is getting some attention today because he vowed to make it an “extraordinarily difficult exercise” for Dems to pass the Senate bill through the House while getting the Senate to fix the bill with a “sidecar” through reconciliation…
[T]here’s no limit on the number of amendments GOPers can offer, [a Republican] aide said, or on their subject matter. A senior Democratic aide confirmed that this is the case — and that it’s a concern weighing on Dems.
“If you bring a reconciliation bill to the Senate, it’s a free for all of amendments,” the GOP aide said, cautioning that this was only part of the overall strategy. “There is no way to limit the number of amendments that are voted on. You can’t close debate. Democrats will have to vote on every politically perilous amendment that you can possibly think of.”
Bayh and Lincoln came out today against reconciliation, but that was expected and their votes aren’t needed anyway. More interesting is Dodd, who called for an ObamaCare “cooling off” period after Brown won the Massachusetts election and is now pushing Reid to invite the GOP to the table to forge a compromise bill. Presumably he thinks McConnell et al. will walk away and the Dems can then claim they have no choice but to go with reconciliation, which should soften public disapproval of the tactic. But even if it does, 48 percent now say Congress should start over entirely on the bill (three in 10 support the current bill) and 93 percent say there’s too much partisan infighting on the Hill. If only for that reason, McConnell probably wouldn’t walk away but would offer his own list of suggested amendments, which would be duly rejected by Reid in favor of reconciliation and then the Dems would own the issue going forward.
As for the House, Clyburn’s talking tough but Pelosi reiterated tonight that they’re “not anywhere near” having enough votes to pass Reid’s bill without some sort of reconciliation fix. But even with the fix, do they have the votes? Hmmmm:
Senior Congressional aides said that lawmakers and the White House were increasingly focused on a plan by which the House would adopt the health care bill approved by the Senate on Dec. 24, with any changes made in a separate bill using the budget reconciliation maneuver.
But Democratic leaders are no longer confident that rank-and-file House Democrats would be willing to go along. The victory by the Republican, Scott Brown, in Massachusetts last Tuesday not only denied Democrats their 60th vote, but raised a specter of fear for Democrats over the midterm elections…
Some Democrats seem prepared to give up on a health care bill or to put it off for several weeks. Others have begun calling for a sharply scaled-back measure that they hope could win bipartisan support.
Exit question: Unless The One pulls some sort of rhetorical rabbit out of his hat tomorrow night, is ObamaCare finished?
Update: This show just went on hiatus.
With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama’s top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, deflected questions about health care. “We’re not on health care now,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.” He added, “There is no rush,” and noted that Congress still had most of this year to work on the health bills passed in 2009 by the Senate and the House…
Some Democrats said that they did not expect any action on health care legislation until late February at earliest, perhaps after Congress returns from a weeklong recess. But the Democrats stand to lose momentum, and every day closer to the November election that the issue remains unresolved may reduce the chances of passing a far-reaching bill…
“It’s a timeout,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “The leadership is re-evaluating. They asked us to keep our powder dry.”
Unless they get GOP support to make it a very stripped-down bipartisan bill, the Blue Dogs’ appetite for revisiting this subject any closer to the midterms will be zero. The bill’s in a coma now. The only two questions: Will McConnell and Boehner agree to reshape it, a la Gingrich’s suggestion? And why did the Dems pull the plug on the eve of the SOTU, knowing that it’s going to cast a pall over The One’s big moment?