Change: House repeals ObamaCare, 245-189

Here’s the roll. Just three Democrats voted with the GOP, which may seem surprising in light of the number of Blue Dogs who voted no on O-Care back in March but really isn’t surprising given the new electoral realities they face. Even a Pelosi nemesis as bold as Heath Shuler has taken to calling repeal “immoral,” and Larry Kissell — who voted with the GOP on the test vote a few weeks ago but flipped today — wrote recently that since the bill has no hope in the Senate, it’s not “reality-based.” I encourage you to read this or watch the clip below of Paul Ryan crunching the numbers yesterday for a reminder about which side in this debate is the “reality-based” one.

Ah well. End of the line now, as there’s no way to get it onto the Senate calendar. Or is there?

The House will pass H.R. 2 this week. Once that bill is passed, it will be sent to the Senate for consideration. Once the Senate receives the bill, any Senator can use Rule 14 to object to the second reading of the bill. This procedural objection will “hold at the desk” the House-passed bill and allow the Senate to act on the full repeal measure.

If the bill is referred to committee, it will never get to the Senate floor. This procedural objection by one or a number of Senators will stop the bill from being referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP). If the bill is referred to committee, there is little to no expectation that the committee will pass the bill, let alone have one hearing on the bill.

Objecting to Rule 14 would hold the bill at the desk of the Senate and would put H.R. 2 on the Senate calendar. This procedure could be done with a letter or call from one Senator to the party leader. This would allow the Senate Majority Leader to commence debate on the matter when he so chooses. It is unlikely that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) would move to proceed to the bill, yet there is a procedure that any Senator can use to force a debate.

Any Senator can use Rule 22 to commence debate on H.R. 2 if they have held the bill at the desk.

Needless to say, you’re not going to find 13 Senate Democrats to vote with the GOP on cloture even if it did come to the floor and notwithstanding the jitters that centrists are feeling ahead of their 2012 reelection bids. But it’d be sweet to force a vote anyway, just because (as noted at the link above) it would make Democrats squirm at possibly having to invoke the filibuster at a moment when filibuster reform is all the rage among their base. And if the GOP regains a Senate majority in 2012, they could conceivably use reconciliation to break a Democratic filibuster and push a repeal bill through — but it won’t be easy.

For further reading, kindly enjoy this analysis from today’s NYT about how, almost a year later, we still have no idea of how ObamaCare will perform in practice. In a sane world, tremendous uncertainty about the outcome would make it impossible to enact a new, nationwide, massively expensive, possibly unrepealable entitlement. But that’s not our world, is it?

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