Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Democrats say reconciliation last, best hope for health care

If you thought last week's election of Republican Scott Brown put an end to the Democrats plan to overhaul the U.S. health care system, think again.  From the AP:

Democratic congressional leaders are coalescing around their last, best hope for salvaging President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care overhaul.

Their plan is to pass the Senate bill with some changes to accommodate House Democrats, senior Democratic aides said Monday. Leaders will present the idea to the rank and file this week, but it’s unclear whether they have enough votes to carry it out.

Last week’s victory by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts cost Democrats the 60th vote they need to maintain undisputed control of the Senate, jeopardizing the outcome of the health care bill just when Obama had brokered a final deal on most of the major issues. [snip]

The procedural route — known as reconciliation — would allow a majority of 51 senators to amend their bill to address some of the major substantive concerns raised by the House. That would circumvent the need for a 60-vote majority to hold off Republican delaying tactics.

The remaining alternatives are unappealing: scaling back the health care bill to less controversial, smaller pieces, or setting it aside altogether.

Momentum is growing to pass the Senate bill with compromises agreed on by the president and congressional leaders, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group. “Are they there yet? No,” he said.

Among those arguing for a quick strike on health care is David Plouffe, the political adviser who helped elect Obama president and has just been summoned back by the White House to help coordinate this year’s elections.

“I know that the short-term politics are bad,” Plouffe argued in a Washington Post op-ed. “But politically speaking, if we do not pass it, the GOP will continue attacking the plan as if we did anyway, and voters will have no ability to measure its upside.” Among the immediate benefits: allowing dependent children to stay on their parents’ coverage into their mid-twenties, and assistance for seniors in the Medicare prescription coverage gap.
Mr. Plouffe, to say that the short-term politics are bad is a huge understatement.  With the mid-term elections just ten months away, any attempt to circumvent the will of the electorate to pass health care reform that Americans do not want will be political suicide for the Democrats.

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