To no one’s great shock, Harry Reid announced this afternoon that the Democrats will not get a health-care reform bill to the floor of the Senate before the August recess. This makes Pelosi’s claim from yesterday that she had the votes to pass ObamaCare look pretty suspect as well. Coming on the heels of last night’s presidential presser, it leaves egg on the face of Barack Obama:
Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday abandoned plans for a vote on health care before Congress’ August recess, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama’s ambitious timetable to revamp the nation’s $2.4 trillion system of medical care.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., delivered the official word on what had been expected for weeks, saying, “It’s better to have a product based on quality and thoughtfulness rather than try to jam something through.”
His words were a near-echo of Republicans who have criticized the rush to act on complex legislation that affects every American.
Reid told reporters the Senate Finance Committee will act on its portion of the bill before lawmakers’ monthlong break. Reid then will merge that bill with separate legislation passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee earlier this month.
Obama has spent the last ten days trying to get momentum rebuilt to push a bill out of Congress in the next two weeks. The prime-time press conference was intended to be the apex of that effort. Instead of building support, however, it left people inside the Beltway unmoved, and Reid finally had to acknowledge what Republicans have argued all along: the issue is far too complex to resolve in a fortnight.
In doing so, Reid more or less pulled the rug out from under Obama and Pelosi at the same time. Obama had told the nation that “the time for talk is through,” but Reid essentially told the nation that Obama was flat-out wrong and that more debate and discussion was absolutely necessary. Reid now controls 60 votes in the Senate, so if Pelosi actually did have the votes to win on the floor for ObamaCare, Reid could have rushed the House version through the Senate and won, if the only problem was Republicans. Neither of them have the votes now, and likely won’t have them after their members go home and get an earful from their constituents about spending, unemployment, and the deficit.
Now that both cap-and-trade and ObamaCare are off the docket until the fall, what will Congress do?
Update: Nancy Pelosi also backtracked today, although not quite as definitively as Reid:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House can go home for its August recess without passing a massive overhaul.
Pelosi dismissed concerns expressed by many Democrats that a monthlong delay could give opponents more chances to rally opposition to the bill.
“I’m not afraid of August,” Pelosi said. “It’s a month.”
Translation: No, I don’t have the votes. Alternatively, My caucus members told me to stuff it if I kept them in session in August. I’d say — probably both.