Elizabeth Drew has written a long, biased and tortured health care reform review of recent events. Two items of interest appear at the end of the article.
“Obama’s move to take the issue to the Republicans by inviting them to a half-day, bipartisan meeting at Blair House on February 25 to discuss health care—without, as the Republicans had been insisting, scrapping the pending bill and starting over—was intended to show the public (and wobbly Democrats) who the obstructionists are. (And Obama’s recent televised meeting in Maryland with House Republicans had been a big hit.)”
“Without sixty votes, the Democrats couldn’t simply reopen the Senate bill to incorporate the changes that the Democratic House and Senate leaders had agreed upon. Instead, the Senate Democrats wanted the House to adopt the Senate bill, and then both chambers would adopt a “reconciliation” bill (which would require just fifty-one votes in the Senate) that would include most of the final changes.”But House Democratic leaders, mistrusting the Senate—and not liking it, either—balked at doing that. Pelosi stated definitively that she couldn’t get enough House votes to pass the Senate bill, unless the Senate passed the reconciliation bill first. And the Senate said that the rules made it impossible to adopt the reconciliation bill first (the House disagreed). Some of the changes couldn’t be put in the reconciliation bill, which can only deal with matters that affect the budget. This would call for a third bill, which no one knows how to pull off.
“Logically, there should still be a way to get a bill passed. But logic went out the window on January 19. The situation was as much psychodrama as legislative stalemate. The perfectly reasonable argument was made to Democrats in Congress, mainly by the administration, that, having voted for the bill already, it would be worse for them to fail to pass it than to pass it, but this seemed not to be heard. If Obama didn’t exert himself for the bill on which he’d spent most of his time in office thus far, it would be not just a political catastrophe for him but leave a scar on his presidency. Longtime observers—members of Congress and people who deal with them—say they have never seen such a sour mood on Capitol Hill, affecting both members and staff alike. One longtime Democrat said to me recently:
“The moderates are paranoid, the liberals are upset, the leaders are frustrated and losing the trust of everybody. There’s no level of trust between the Senate and the House or the White House and everyone else. There has been a breakdown of the kind of chemistry you need to get this kind of thing done.”
About a week later, the same aide wrote Drew with this update:
“Every option is bad. The leaders in the House and the Senate want to get a bill but enthusiasm is waning in the rank and file. They want us to focus on jobs. Still think we can get it done but have no idea how.”
And the bold above, in a thimble, is the story of health reform: everyone thinks they can do it, everyone says they want to do it, they are convinced they should do it, but have no idea of how to do it, and nearly everyone fails to do it.
There are now reports of the Dems nearing another (umpteenth) deal. And they are “warming” to the idea of reconciliation. Expect a spate of these stories as the White House – GOP Meeting nears.
Let them try. It will end badly. But they won’t try, because they know they cannot succeed.
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