As the end game of the health care legislative war begins, a major Republican talking point has emerged. It’s a point directed not to the American public, but to House Democrats.
The point is this: although the White House promises to fix the Senate bill if/when the House passes it, there is no guarantee that the fix will occur. And if it doesn’t, Obama will be able to sign the Senate bill, which so many House Democrats find highly distasteful, into law.
Why isn’t a fix guaranteed, given that “reconciliation” requires only a simple majority? For one thing, the president and the Senate may be happy enough with the Senate bill. What reason is there to believe that, for example, they will want to toughen restrictions on abortion funding (even assuming that this kind of fix can be accomplished through reconciliation)?
For another thing, the Republicans may be able, through legislative maneuvering, to block the passage of a revised bill. This is what Senator Graham, appearing last night on cable news, was saying Republicans would do.
Perhaps the most likely scenario through which the Senate bill becomes law involves a combination of the first two scenarios. Obama will not want to be seen as stabbing House Democrats in the back, so I would expect him to push for reconciliation. However, after the Republicans obstruct the process for a while, he and the Senate Dems can throw up their hands, blame the Republicans, sign the Senate bill, and promise to revisit it next year.
This prospect should give great pause to House members who are uncomfortable with the Senate bill (Cornhusker Kickback and all), whether for substantive reasons, political reasons, or both. Republicans certainly hope it will.
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