Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are We Going Nuclear On DemCare?

Hm, this could be very interesting:

The GOP Senate leadership has privately settled on a strategy to derail health reform if Dems try to pass the Senate bill with a fix through reconciliation, aides say: Unleash an endless stream of amendments designed to stall for time and to force Dems to take untenable votes…

Senator Judd Gregg is getting some attention today because he vowed to make it an “extraordinarily difficult exercise” for Dems to pass the Senate bill through the House while getting the Senate to fix the bill with a “sidecar” through reconciliation…

[T]here’s no limit on the number of amendments GOPers can offer, [a Republican] aide said, or on their subject matter. A senior Democratic aide confirmed that this is the case — and that it’s a concern weighing on Dems.

“If you bring a reconciliation bill to the Senate, it’s a free for all of amendments,” the GOP aide said, cautioning that this was only part of the overall strategy. “There is no way to limit the number of amendments that are voted on. You can’t close debate. Democrats will have to vote on every politically perilous amendment that you can possibly think of.”

I'm not convinced the GOP would do that, but it would be sweet if they did. The political machinations are a bit dizzying, made even more so because some Dems have already come out against reconciliation:
Bayh and Lincoln came out today against reconciliation, but that was expected and their votes aren’t needed anyway. More interesting is Dodd, who called for an ObamaCare “cooling off” period after Brown won the Massachusetts election and is now pushing Reid to invite the GOP to the table to forge a compromise bill. Presumably he thinks McConnell et al. will walk away and the Dems can then claim they have no choice but to go with reconciliation, which should soften public disapproval of the tactic. But even if it does, 48 percent now say Congress should start over entirely on the bill (three in 10 support the current bill) and 93 percent say there’s too much partisan infighting on the Hill. If only for that reason, McConnell probably wouldn’t walk away but would offer his own list of suggested amendments, which would be duly rejected by Reid in favor of reconciliation and then the Dems would own the issue going forward.
The Dems apparently don't want ownership of that:

With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama’s top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, deflected questions about health care. “We’re not on health care now,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.” He added, “There is no rush,” and noted that Congress still had most of this year to work on the health bills passed in 2009 by the Senate and the House…

Some Democrats said that they did not expect any action on health care legislation until late February at earliest, perhaps after Congress returns from a weeklong recess. But the Democrats stand to lose momentum, and every day closer to the November election that the issue remains unresolved may reduce the chances of passing a far-reaching bill…

“It’s a timeout,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “The leadership is re-evaluating. They asked us to keep our powder dry.”

So much for all that talk of health care being an urgent crisis, huh?

Still, it makes one wonder why they're waving the white flag the day before The One's big State of the Union speech...

There's my two cents.

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