Patterico's Pontifications

3/2/2010

ObamaCare: Burning down the House

Filed under: General — Karl @ 11:50 am



[Posted by Karl]

Pres. Obama plans to announce the Democrats’ “way forward” on ObamaCare tomorrow — though it is already pretty clear to everyone that the Dems are going to try to ram it through Congress with a reconciliation strategy. Inside Health Policy’s Julian Pecquet and Amy Lotven obtained a Democratic memo with a proposed timeline: The House passes the Senate bill by March 19th, and a reconciliation bill “fixing” it within a week, sending the latter to the Senate for reconcilation starting March 26. The Dem hope is that the Easter recess will deter the GOP from filing numerous amendments that would force Democrats to take difficult votes (even if its only a vote to waive forced by VP Joe Biden). Obviously, the Dem leadership does not want its members going home and facing angry voters again until the deed is done.

Thus, the immediate problem for Dems is a shortage of House votes for the Senate bill (and no news that the Senate will assure the House of going along with any particular fixes yet). FDL’s David Dayen notes that the Obama administration is using the media to start pressuring House members who voted “no” last time:

Ten House Democrats indicated in an Associated Press survey Monday they have not ruled out switching their “no” votes to “yes” on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, brightening the party’s hopes in the face of unyielding Republican opposition.

***

In interviews with the AP, at least 10 of the 39 Democrats — or their spokesmen — either declined to state their positions or said they were undecided about the revised legislation, making them likely targets for intense wooing by Pelosi and Obama. Three of them — Brian Baird of Washington, Bart Gordon of Tennessee and John Tanner of Tennessee — are not seeking re-election this fall.

The others are Rick Boucher of Virginia, Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, Michael McMahon of New York, Walt Minnick of Idaho, Scott Murphy of New York and Glenn Nye of Virginia. Several lawmakers’ offices did not reply to the AP queries.

The tipoff — as RCP’s Jay Cost noted on Twitter — is the timing of the AP story. These members have been non-committal or unresponsive to press inquiries for months. And quite frankly, a number of them are not as undecided as the AP would have readers believe.

First, the AP itself reported that Minnick will not change his vote, according to his spokesman — which is no surprise, given his record and the heavy GOP tilt of his district. Jay notes that Boucher now has a top-tier opponent in his re-election race. Kratovil told the New York Times that he prefers a smaller bill. (Both Kratovil and Boucher represent districts that went 58-59% for McCain in 2008.) The NYT also reports that Tanner has told colleagues he has no intention of switching his vote. And the AP did not bother to check with Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania:

With so many Democrats feeling nervous about their past votes in favor of the health bill, Mr. Altmire said, he can imagine vote-switching in only one direction: from yes to no.

“I don’t know of any no votes at this point that would switch unless the bill is substantially changed, including me,” he said. “And I know of a handful of yes votes who regret it and would relish the opportunity to put a no vote on the board so they could go back home and talk about that.”

Indeed, Bloomberg reports that Baron Hill of Indiana might not back a measure if it goes through reconciliation — and his colleague Brad Ellsworth sounds queasy, too (both have considered running for the Senate seat being vacated by Evan Bayh).

FDL’s Dayen issued a cautionary note to his left-leaning readers:

I do want to say one thing to those who claim that Nancy Pelosi has special powers, and that she doesn’t lose a vote in the House ever, which has been floated by commentators and members of Congress alike. Let’s be clear about this – Pelosi DID lose the vote in November. She won final passage of the health care bill, but if she had her way, the Stupak amendment would never have gotten a vote. She ignored and ignored Stupak for several months, hopeful that she could round up enough votes for the bill without him. And ultimately, she was unsuccessful, forced to roll back women’s rights as a consequence of passing health care reform.

Now, she doesn’t have that out. The Nelson amendment governs the abortion language in the Senate bill, and as changing that through reconciliation is unlikely to pass the Byrd rule, basically that cannot be changed.

Thus, the supposed two-bill strategy (Senate bill + reconciliation) might have to become a three-bill strategy to pick up Stupak’s bloc of pro-life Dems. But Stupak himself is already moving the goalposts, making objections beyond that issue. At the moment, it is sounding like Dems who voted “no” (and some who voted “yes”) will let Nancy Pelosi break their arms as preferable to suffering political death in November. The Easter deadline — like all of the other Obamacare deadlines — may already be slipping.

Update: Slate’s Timothy Noah confirms in even greater detail just how difficult it will be for Pelosi to flip Democrats from “no” to “yes.”

–Karl

33 Responses to “ObamaCare: Burning down the House”

  1. I’m trying to figure out how the President’s new “smaller” bill fits into this strategy, since it wouldn’t be either the House bill or the Senate bill.

    It seems to me that the new smaller bill is Plan C — going back through the entire process again, this time hoping to pick up some GOP votes by scaling back the reach and adding GOP measures like tort reform and waste/fraud programs.

    I don’t see how the Senate bill can be unmade into this “smaller” bill through reconciliation process.

    But, this is the one way that I can see where the Dems might attract some Blue Dogs to get with the program, even if no Reps join them. Having the bill be smaller and aimed more at cost-containment rather than expanding coverage.

    Shipwreckedcrew (96a8a6)

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  3. I still feel they will get something passed one way or another.

    I hope the public voice affirmation to those who voted YES the first time and NO now. It would be nice to see this soundly defeated (although, if it looked that bad, it’s doubtful to come to a real vote).

    I don’t trust any press coverage. Anyone on the bubble at this point is either looking for something to be thrown their way and/or polling their districts to see if a YES vote now will hurt them enough this Fall.

    Corwin (ea9428)

  4. Shipwreckedcrew,

    I thought about doing a separate post just on that question. I think Obama’s “smaller bill” won’t actually be at all. Some of the numbers may change by putting things off even further into the future. Obama will talk about increasing the “authorization” for spending money on tort reform pilot projects — knowing a Dem Congress would never appropriate the money to actually do them. And there likely won’t be a new bill. Obama might back voting on such things in reconciliation to make it look like Dems are being bipartisan, when the bill will really continue to include all sorts of dealbreakers for the GOP. That way, Nancy can proclaim that it has bipartisan ideas, even if it passes on a party-line vote. And the GOP gets accused of backing ideas and then voting against the bill anyway (that won’t hurt the GOP in public opinion, but it’s what the Dems want).

    Karl (f07e38)

  5. Shipwrecked: I’m also trying to figure out how Obama’s plan C figures in, unless it’s to start the process over (which Obama has claimed he is not willing to do).

    Karl: What do you make of Obama’s letter he sent today touting ideas from the GOP he agrees with?

    Can they be added during Senate reconciliation?

    I was under the same impression you were: The house passes the Senate bill, which the senate then “fixes.” How many fixes before it’s just a new bill that must be voted on again?

    Myron (6a93dd)

  6. I don’t think Brian Baird is running in the 2010 election.

    KIETH (98e299)

  7. Karl – Is that the same incentive in the House bill to study med-mal tort reform, but denies these funds to anyone that implements anything that reduces attorney fees, etc … ?

    JD (5375e6)

  8. Re: Potemkin Plan C

    I think some of the supposed GOP ideas could be added in reconciliation. The tort reform pilot projects, for example, are straight budget authorization. But as noted above, it’s a scam. A budget authorization is not a budget appropriation.

    Stripping out the Cornhusker Kickback and the Florida waiver on Medicare Advantage cuts can be done in reconciliation — and were going to be done anyway, as Dems have convinced themselves that these were major reasons why the public continued to sour on the effort.

    Allowing high deductible plans in the exchanges might be dodgier to do in reconciliation — but the objection would come from the Dems, not the GOP. The nutroots will decry it as “junk” insurance. And allowing the young and healthy to buy them increases the likelihood of a death spiral in the insurance industry (much like Congress watering down the fines for not buying insurance).

    If it couldn’t be done in reconciliation, it could be done in a third bill, if one became necessary to nail down objections involving abortion and illegal immigrants. But I doubt the Dems are seriously entertaining starting from scratch. They’ll Rube Goldberg it to preserve what they’ve already passed.

    Karl (f07e38)

  9. KIETH,

    Correct. Baird is not running. The linked NYT story had him “non-committal.”

    Karl (f07e38)

  10. I don’t think anything Obama says can be trusted and, unlikely as it seems, a lot of politics runs on trust. That was why McCain was so angry at Shelby in 1989 when he promised to vote yes on Tower and flipped in the committee. LBJ used to say, “In Texas, when you buy a congressman, he stays bought.” What he meant was that when people gave their word, they kept it. They might lie to constituents, but not to other politicians. I think they have all figured out Obama by now.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  11. For once, Pres. Obowman should listen to one of his financial advisors (Warren Buffet) and just scrap this turd.
    That he won’t, tells us what type of person he really is, putting the lie to all of his campaign.

    AD - RtR/OS! (ad40ca)

  12. Watch Buffett be immediately derided as a senile old man and now completely beholden to GOP interests. Get ready for a close up of the tail pipe under that bus, Warren!

    PS – someone should ask Myron if he’s seen the new poll from the Daily Kozzy’s objective and well – respected polling apparatus. You know, the same one that was shredded to bits by the other lefties who actually analyze polls.

    Myron, you’re such a partisan hack.

    Dmac (799abd)

  13. Curious how the only GOP ideas Obama is interested in are the ones that cost a lot of money.

    luagha (5cbe06)

  14. Karl: Thanks. My take is that Obama is not being very serious. I wanted to see if there was something I was missing.

    Dmac: N.I. – Not Interested in your rants today.

    Myron (6a93dd)

  15. DNC’s Kane said with a straight face that passing this sh!t sandwich bia reconciliation will help (D)’s chances in November. Even Shep laughed.

    sybilll (2341d7)

  16. Obama’s “smaller” bill is a mirage. There is no actual legislation behind it, the White House thinks a couple of scrawls on a dinner napkin is a bill.

    Not least because that’s the kind of legislating Obama did in the Senate.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  17. How is this for an endgame: this drags on through the spring and summer and is not settled before Congress adjourns so that members can campaign for reelection. The GOP has a landslide win, picking up 50 House seats and something like 7 in the Senate. Nancy and Harry then convene a lame-duck session in December in order to make a final run at reconciliation. When the GOP complains, they point out that Republicans did the same thing in 1998 to impeach Clinton. The 50 Dems whose seats are going over to Republicans will, let’s face it, probably be mostly moderates in conservative-leaning districts, so even though many of them would not have supported the bill, they lose in the Republican tide anyway. As a consequence, Obama and Pelosi cut deals with 10-15 members to give them non-confirmable jobs as undersecretaries and czars or jobs with left-wing think tanks in return for their “aye” vote on reconciliation. Doing that gives them a final margin of 218 votes. Harry somehow manages to scrape together exactly 50 votes in the Senate, and Biden acting as President of the Senate casts the tie-breaking vote to bring us ObamaCare.

    JVW (fd30ab)

  18. Karl — I suspect you have it right. The press reports today are that there was never a new “smaller” bill, that was simply a mischaracterization of what Obama was going to be producing on Wed. He’s only suggesting the ways in which the Senate bill should be changed — both by reconciliation and by follow-on legislation. It’s purely window dressing meant to give the Dems a campaign trail “talking point” claiming “We tried to meet them part-way by incorporating things that were important to the GOP”, while at the same time leaving in all the deal-breakers that are simply anathema to a market-based preference.

    Shipwreckedcrew (96a8a6)

  19. Dmac: N.I. – Not Interested in your rants today.

    Translation – I’ve got nothing substantative to offer in response. Excellent work.

    Dmac (799abd)

  20. He is up by 20 against Coats and 16 against a third Republican, according to Research 2000. That firm is contracted by Kos for nonpartisan polling.

    If you have evidence that their polls are biased, please link to it.

    Comment by Myron — 2/15/2010 @ 2:25 pm

    Here’s the relevant research that Myron’s too lazy (or ignorant) to do himself:

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Skeptics-Sniff-at-Daily-Kos-Poll-2428

    Even the leftists think – tanks and pollsters are laughing at the Kos poll, Myron. D’oh! But I guess The Atlantic’s now a right – wing hate machine, right?

    Here’s the immortal Kos’s past polling record, this one put Coakley’s race as a toss – up the night before the election (no partisanship or bias there, obviously):

    http://www.dailykos.com/statepoll/2010/1/17/MA/429

    More past hilarity from Myron’s super – objective polling nutbags:

    http://blogs.forward.com/campaign-confidential/14327/

    That one had Kirk losing before his last election. Right again!

    I can do this all night – like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Comment by Dmac — 2/15/2010 @ 3:03 pm

    Then you immediately ran away like the little girl you are, Myron. So get used to the rants as long as you run away every time you beclown yourself.

    Dmac (799abd)

  21. Destroy the Senate rules and there is nothing left but Venezuela.

    The progressives have already taken the first step by taking away the States votes with the 17th Amendment, this just finishes the job. Democrats ram it in, Republicans ram it back out until one side gets tired playing the game and the gulags open.

    bill-tb (541ea9)

  22. @21: sales of guns and ammo continue unabated, the only part of the economy that isn’t stuttering….

    it’s kinda hard to put sheep dogs in pens.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  23. Senate bill is passed.
    Reconciliation bill is created and passed.
    POTUS signs Senate bill.
    POTUS elects to NOT sign reconciliation bill.

    What next?

    Everybody is so concerned about the reconciliation bill passing it seems they may have missed this loop-hole. Can you trust this POTUS to sign the second bill?

    {^_-}

    JD (f3a33a)

  24. is one valid without the other?

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  25. “Everybody is so concerned about the reconciliation bill passing it seems they may have missed this loop-hole. Can you trust this POTUS to sign the second bill?”

    Why would he not?

    imdw (2725d2)

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