Thursday, February 4, 2010

2/4/2010: The Latest on Health Care Reform

Although the Republicans think HCR is dead, Nancy Pelosi is determined to get it done.

pelosi In a call with progressive media yesterday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated her determination, in no uncertain terms, to keep pushing to pass comprehensive healthcare reform. (Crooks and Liars has the audio.) Pelosi referred to healthcare reform as "first among equals" in Democratic initiatives to create jobs, stressing that it's a major competiveness issue for the United States, and that our current system hampers job growth and entrepreneurship.

She reiterated that the Senate will have to move the reconciliation sidecar to the bill first, that she has heard from the majority of her caucus that they are "not going to vote for that [the Senate] bill" unless the Senate acts on the reconciliation fix first. She stressed how many of the House caucus came to Congress on the issue of healthcare reform, and how long they have worked on it, and said that until basic issues of fairness, state equity, and affordability for the middle class were addressed, the House won't vote on the Senate bill.

Don't even ask us to consider passing the Senate bill until the other legislation has passed both houses so that we're sure that it has happened, and that we know that what we would be voting for would be as effected by a reconciliation bill or whatever parliamentary initiative they have at their disposable.

Beyond the issues of affordabilty and state equity (getting rid of the Nebraska deal), fixing the excise tax, and closing the “donut hole” in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage for seniorsm [sic] Pelosi wouldn't detail the issues that would likely be included under reconciliation, deferring basicaly [sic] to what Senate leadership thought it could do. When asked whether the public option would be included, she reiterated her support for it, as well as the House's, but again deferred to what the Senate would be able to pass. She did say that she had heard from more than one Senator that wanted the House to include either a single payer or public option, but was not optimistic.

There was talk that there would be 51 votes for it, but it never passed on the floor of the Senate. It did pass in the House and, of course, I think it would be the way to go. But it isn't the way that the Senate went. And so I think that what you might see coming out of some reconciliation would be those areas of agreement that all three--the White House, the Senate and the House--had already agreed to...more than two weeks ago.

Despite that assessement,  Daily Kos readers got a hint that there might even be life left in the public option on the Senate side in reconciliation from Chuck Schumer yesterday. In a comment responding to a question from nyceve in his diary, Schumer said he has "always believed that there are 51 votes for the public option.  Getting to 60 was the real challenge.  We're now reviewing all of our options and reconciliation is certainly one of them." With now more than 100 House Dems urging Reid to include the public option in that package, there might still be life in it.

The "new" news in the call was that the House "will pass" a repeal of insurance companies anti-trust exemption next week. Whether that certainy is coming from an actual whip count or her optimism is unclear, but it's pretty unlikely more than a few House Dems would actually vote against this popular political step. The Senate prospects for taking up this bill are unclear, given how long it takes them to do anything, but pressure from the House moving pieces of this reform forward could help ease that logjam… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Daily Kos>

I can’t blame Pelosi for hesitating.  All the while that the House has been legislating, the Nevada Leg Hound, Harry Reid, was humping GOP and Blue Dog legs and producing a thoroughly flawed product.

Obama supports this approach as well.

obama8 White House aides have privately told Dem Congressional aides that the White House supports the House passing the Senate health reform bill with a reconciliation fix, something that could give a bit more momentum to that approach, according to two Congressional staffers familiar with the discussions.

The private communications will lend a bit of cheer to those who had hoped the White House would use its heft to help Congress break its logjam by endorsing a specific route to getting reform done.

Obama and the White House have not publicly stated a preference on how they’d like Congressional Dems to proceed. But White House aides have privately made it clear to the Dem leadership that they support the approach many Dems are coalescing behind: The House passing the Senate bill, with fixes made by the Senate via reconciliation, the sources say.

In staff level discussions, the White House has made it clear that it supports making changes to the Senate bill through reconciliation because that is the only way to pass comprehensive health care reform,” one of the Dem Congressional aides familiar with ongoing talks tells me.

“They support this strategy,” a second Democratic aide familiar with the talks says, referring to the White House. “The alternatives are so bad they’re not worth asking about.”

It’s unclear whether Obama himself has privately communicated support for this option directly to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. And White House aides have not inserted themselves directly into discussions about the procedural obstacles to doing it, one of the aides says… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Plumline>

They should have taken this tack in the beginning, because they never had 60 votes.  Several in the Senate Democratic caucus are Blue Dogs, and one is a Republican.

At this point, we can only hope.  I’ll close with Keith Olbermann and Sherrod Brown.

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1 comment:

Infidel753 said...

It's encouraging to see Pelosi so unequivocal, but I'm starting to think that lining up all the votes needed for this is going to be, not so much like herding cats, as like herding dead cats. For so many of these guys, fear of not getting re-elected is always paramount, and when they feel nervous, their instinctive reaction is inertia.

But we can't give up hope. The leadership, at least, surely realizes that failure would look worse than even the most patchwork success.