Kent Conrad: If the House doesn't pass ObamaCare first, "then it's dead"

Just the sort of bicameral unity The One’s eager to see ahead of tomorrow’s masterpiece theater.

Conrad, who has been open to reconciliation as long as the fixes are limited, said the order must be reversed. The House must pass the Senate bill first — before either chamber considers the reconciliation package, he said.

“I don’t know of any way, I don’t know of any way where you can have a reconciliation bill pass before the bill that it is meant to reconcile passes,” said Conrad, who would be a central figure on the Senate floor if Democrats embark on the complicated process. “I don’t know how you would deal with the scoring. I don’t know how I could look you in the eye and say this package reduces the deficit. It’s kind of got the cart before the horse.”

When reminded that House Democrats don’t want to do health care in that order, Conrad said bluntly: “Fine, then it’s dead.”


Pelosi ducked his ultimatum by saying she’s, er, “not into procedure right now.” This is why I said in the earlier post that Senate moderates like Landrieu are bluffing about being open to reconciliation. Until Pelosi proves she can pass something in the House, there’s no benefit for Landrieu to backing something as risky as the nuclear option; until Reid proves that he can use the nuclear option to pass something in the Senate, there’s no benefit for Pelosi to trying to pass something in the House. Who wants to jump off the bridge first? Tom Harkin is vowing that they’re going to pass something by Easter, so someone had better jump soon.

But wait. Maybe instead of jumping, they can climb down:

If after this weekend, however, either Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., thinks he doesn’t have the 51 votes for such a move, or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., doesn’t think she has the 217 votes needed to pass the bill, which seems quite possible, Democrats would go to Plan B (or C, or D, or whatever we’re up to) wherein they introduce a more modest plan that can indeed secure some bipartisan support. A plan with perhaps some tax credits for small businesses to provide insurance for their employees, and some insurance company reforms, maybe a smaller expansion of Medicaid and closing the “donut-hole” for recipients of the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Which Republicans would support such a measure?

The White House doesn’t think that Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, would do so in any set of circumstances.

“The president could grab the six leading Republican (health care reform) bills, put his name on them and introduce them and Boehner and McConnell would still vote against them,” one senior administration official said.


A smaller bill has always been their best bet to salvage a political win, which leaves me as confused as ever as to why Obama introduced a giant one without knowing for sure in advance whether it can pass. Maybe he really does believe that if he can just get Republicans to say no to enough legislation, or in a visible enough format, all the polls showing anger over GOP obstructionism will finally start to bite and translate into a new surge of popularity/sympathy for the Dems. The bigger the bill, the more likely the GOP will choke on it, and the more anti-obstruction fee-vah lifts Democratic fortunes. Or so the theory would go.

In the unlikely event that they really are thinking of trying to pass this thing, though, please note: The public hates reconciliation.

More than three in four, 77%, say their “best guess” is that President Obama and congressional Democratic and Republican leaders will leave the six-hour session at Blair House empty-handed. Just one in five, 22%, predict they’ll reach a deal…

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Monday that, if necessary, the White House was open to using a parliamentary maneuver known as reconciliation to bypass a prospective filibuster in the Senate. That means a measure could pass the Senate with a 51-vote majority rather than the 60 votes needed to end debate.

Americans are opposed 52%-39% to using that device to get a bill through.

Good luck, champ. I leave you with the NYT’s report on Bambi’s gentle, nurturing leadership. I’m sorry to report that it hasn’t worked on Dennis Kucinich. Still 15 votes down, Nancy.


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