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March 04, 2010

Reader's Observation: If the House Passes the Senate Bill, the Senate Will Screw Them Over and Change Nothing Via Reconciliation, or Any Other Mechanism

Most have been focusing on the parliamentary issue of whether reconciliation was allowed for the purpose of passing health care through the Senate.

A reader makes a damned fine point: What if there's also no will to do so on the part of Senate Democrats? What if the real plan is just to make-pretend a reconciliation bill will pass, to appease House liberals, and then blow it off?

This makes a lot of sense. First of all, the Senate bill is the Senate bill, of course. Among themselves -- and they have some loyalty to their fellow Democratic Senators; some, at least -- they have collectively agreed that this is the bill they can all live with.

So, right off the jump, they'd be changing the Senate bill from one they've collectively approved of to one they don't necessarily collectively approve of. They lack motivation to change much, if anything.

But let me stipulate there are at least 50 liberal Senators willing to undo the bargain made with their slightly-more-moderate colleagues and pass a bigger, pricier, more social-democratic reconciliation bill that moves the Senate bill closer to the House bill.

There's another factor: All Democrats, liberal or moderate, want this issue over with. Over and done. They want an exit strategy. Every day they are talking about health care is a day they lose, politically. This bill is not only unpopular with independents -- it's actually pretty unpopular with the nutroots true believers, who view it as a sell-out to insurance companies and not nearly Canada-y enough for their liking.

Democrats have viewed the possible exit strategies and have decided that among all the bad alternatives, just passing the damn thing is least bad.

Oh, that's bad too, and they know it. It's an unpopular bill. It will cost them. But they are counting on the hope that if they pass the bill, it becomes old news, and then they can turn to other issues.

Like what? I don't know. Anything else. Even issues that hurt Democrats -- like the Spendulus -- don't hurt as bad as health care.

So they are counting on the idea that it is easier to beg forgiveness than secure permission; that if they present the public with a fait accompli, they can say "What's done is done, let's move on," and at least some independents will be willing to be distracted by some other matter.

It's not a very good strategy -- but it is, arguably, the best one they have. At least they've convinced themselves of such. (Or at least a majority of Democrats have so convinced themselves.)

Now, as my reader notes -- given this dynamic, where most of the point of this is to take the issue off the table of active, live issues and quickly as painlessly as possible -- don't Senate Democrats have an incentive to intentionally fail on reconciliation as soon as humanly possible? To give it a half-assed college try (call it a mail-order college try), fail immediately, and just let the bill sit as it stands?

And just tell the House, "Gee, sorry, we couldn't do it"?

Bear in mind the whole strategy here is to screw over the American public and count on "Gee, sorry" as the way of avoiding political disaster.

So why can't the Senate also just say "Gee, sorry" to the House? Why not just have a short week of debate, attempt to "pass" a very liberal reconciliation package they know won't garner 50 votes, take a vote, fail, and go home, with their very own Senate bill, unchanged, as the law of the land?

A lot of House members want the Senate to go first on reconciliation, possibly because they doubt reconciliation will pass even with best efforts, but possibly also because they don't quite believe the Democratic Senators will give it best efforts.

Maybe we're fishing in troubled waters here, but it does seem the House has a big reason to doubt the Senate. Not only is it unclear they can do what they propose, but it also seems like they have little incentive to really, genuinely even attempt what they propose.

So, House Liberals:

Get ready to be screwed over, and have to tell your nutroots donors, "Sorry I voted for that bill you hated, but the wily, crafty Democrats in the Senate -- stone-cold Mensa chapter presidents like Barabara Boxer, Patty Murray, and Jay Rockefeller -- tricked me."

PS, I owe the guy who said this a hat-tip, but I lost track of where he wrote it.

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posted by Ace at 05:13 PM

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