Not only does the most gentlemanly of Senators blast his lower-chamber colleagues for their belief that reconciliation will sail through the upper chamber unchanged, Orrin Hatch warns Senate Democrats that an attempt to push it through will mean “war.” If they believe Republicans will just sit back and allow Democrats to run roughshod over the minority, they will find themselves in a battle they’ll regret “for the rest of their lives”:
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are “nuts” to think tomorrow’s vote on health-care legislation will resolve the issue.
If the measure passes, Senate Republicans have enough votes on at least two points of order to alter the measure and send it back to the House for a second round of votes, Hatch said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
“If those people think they’re only going to vote on this once, they’re nuts,” Hatch said as House Democratic leaders rounded up support before the scheduled vote on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.
The senator from Utah also said the approach Democrats are using to pass the legislation in the House may be unconstitutional because the House and Senate aren’t voting on “exactly the same language.”
I’ve interviewed Hatch a few times, and this is about as harsh as he ever gets. He generally likes to work towards consensus, not confrontation; fire and brimstone aren’t part of his nature. So when Hatch says this, it means something:
Hatch, who was first elected to his seat in 1976, predicted “outright warfare” in the Senate if Democrats use a process called reconciliation that would allow the chamber to pass the health-care measure with a simple majority.
“That’s going to be something they’re going to have to live with the rest of their lives,” Hatch said.
At one time, Democrats considered using a ping-pong strategy to keep refining the bill rather than attempting to do it through reconciliation. It appears that Republicans have now adopted the idea to keep it from passing. If they can alter the bill in their Senate vote — and it might be hard to do, considering they only have 41 votes — then the House will have to reconsider the new language before passing it along to the President for his signature. In the meantime, it will take a long time to get through the various amendments and points of order, and if Republicans really want to make it a “war,” they can make everything else in the Senate come to a halt, too.
When Tom Coburn threatens to do that, people have to take that seriously because Coburn rarely makes empty threats, but it’s usually reflective of Coburn himself. When Orrin Hatch threatens that, it means that most if not all Republicans have had it with Democratic steamrolling. Get ready for some fireworks.