They may not have the votes — they may not even have a viable path to reconciliation at the moment — but it’s too late to worry about that now. Ramming speed, stat.
With this, I’m now officially hopelessly confused about the procedural strategy here.
What’s going on? The final push for Obamacare is about to begin. It starts on Monday, when the House Budget Committee will insert reconciliation instructions into the November House health care bill. By late Monday / early Tuesday, Budget will pass this bill and send it to the House Rules Committee, where Pelosi will change the language so that it matches the Senate bill. This is the final compromise legislation that may come to a vote on the House floor within weeks. “They’re creating the shell,” says Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Why move ahead when the votes aren’t there? Pelosi hopes that launching the process will create enough momentum to flip Democrats her way. The clock is ticking. The speaker has two weeks before Congress breaks for Easter Recess. And the recess could kill off health care reform, since many of the wavering Democrats will get an earful from their constituents when they return home. Republicans expect Democrats to lose votes over the break.
More on Ryan and “the shell” from Philip Klein:
Ryan said that the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that President Obama must sign a health care bill into law before the Senate can change it through reconciliation largely renders moot the attempt by Rep. Louise Slaughter to shield members from a direct vote on the Senate health care bill. He said the idea would also violate Obama’s call for an up-or-down vote. “That’s not an up-or-down vote, that’s sweeping it under the rug and into law,” Ryan said.
I think this means they’re abandoning the Slaughter strategy and proceeding to a direct do-or-die vote on Reid’s bill and a separate vote on a reconciliation fix in the hope/expectation that the Senate will keep its promise and pursue reconciliation once both bills pass. They can forget about Stupak’s bloc in that case, but per Waxman’s comments earlier, it sounds like they’ve already forgotten about it. The only issue now is whether anxious House Blue Dogs have enough confidence in Reid to push reconciliation through that they’ll pull the trigger for his bill. A question from Lamar Alexander and Judd Gregg: How lucky do you feel?
Note the point in the blockquote about getting this done by the recess. Gibbs and Pelosi are being casual about the March 18 deadline, but don’t be fooled. Exit quotation: “There wasn’t any more clarity on the tick tock of the process, which is obviously, you know, a deal breaker for some people.”
Update: A little more clarity from NRO. I was wondering when Madam Speaker would insert all the legislative bribes she’ll need to make to bring centrist Dems around. Here’s the answer:
Ryan says that, come Monday, Democrats “will bring a shell piece of reconciliation legislation” to the budget committee. “The reconciliation process has to begin there,” he says. “Here’s what they’ll do: They will take the House health-care bill and mark it up so that it can become a reconciliation vehicle. Republicans will make runs at this via motions to instruct, but since we’re outnumbered, their package will get through the committee. Then they’ll send that shell of a bill to the House Rules Committee. The rules committee will then gut the budget committee’s reconciliation bill and drop in all of the deals that Speaker Pelosi arranges with members who vote for the Senate health-care bill in the House.” Those deals, he adds, “will be hard to scrutinize, and we may never know their full extent, since many of them will be orchestrated outside of health-care legislation.”