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The upside of reconciliation

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Ben Nelson says he will vote against any health-care compromise that runs through reconciliation. Same goes for Evan Bayh. Blanche Lincoln added her name to the list, too.

Which is all as it should be. The virtue of running the compromise through reconciliation is that you can lose a couple of conservative Democrats. In theory, this could be a good thing: 51 senators could enact a better bill than 60 senators. The most unpopular compromises -- namely, Nelson's Medicaid deal -- came in the effort to round up those final votes. The bill's most popular policies -- like the public option and the Medicare buy-in -- were eliminated to placate conservative Democrats.

But instead of seeing this as an opportunity to scrub the bill of some of its more noxious concessions and restore some of the legislation's more popular elements, Democrats seem terrified by the prospect of, as some Hill aides have said to me, "cutting another deal." When you've defined "deals" so broadly as to include votes on legislation and then taken such deals off the table, however, you've also taken legislating off the table.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 26, 2010; 6:03 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

Hey Ezra - there's an article in the New York Times right now saying that the Dems have officially put the brakes on health care reform. What does that mean? Does it mean that it's truly dead now?

I'm pretty close to giving up.

Posted by: reader44 | January 26, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I have been suggesting putting back some of the more progressive ideas through a reconciliation bill since before the repiglicans gained a 41-59 majority. Time to do it now. Get a robust public option back in the bill. Fix the cadillac tax. Up the subsidies. Expand medicaid more. Add more money for community health centers. Use the excise tax on millionaires to make it budget neutral. Surely there are 50 senators and 219 congresscritters who can back a plan like that, if they really wanted to expand health insurance coverage, that is....

Posted by: srw3 | January 26, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

'reader44' - why close to giving up? It is over.

Ezra has a job so he will continue to report.

We have 'liar' Democratic Leaders in Congress as well as President has learned all the games of Washington DC where you never tell which is so obvious - that Dems do not want to do anything here.

Let me repeat - the current Senate bill will not pass via 'recon'. Any new bill got to get some GOP votes, which is not possible till Nov 2010. So regardless of what that 'stupid' Reid says (that 111th Congress has more time); time is gone for this Congress to do anything. Reid thinks we do not understand that anything delayed in currently charge environment is gone for ever.

Obama Presidency will be hobbled by this colossal defeat for long time to come. That is all of his making as well as Congressional Dems.

Be ready to throw these 'bums' out in Nov 2010.

Let us see if we get something smaller in 2011 or after Obama is gone in 2013.

Posted by: umesh409 | January 26, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

1) Medicare buy-in
2) Single, national exchange

Posted by: bmull | January 26, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Why is telling Blanche, Ben and Evan to kiss off 'making a deal'?

We don't need - or want - their votes. We need 51, and we want, ohh 54 or so, but we do not need Nelson's bribe or Blanche's blanching to dictate our reform.

Pass. It. Now.

Posted by: RalfW | January 26, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats seem terrified by the prospect of, as some Hill aides have said to me, "cutting another deal." "

I hate to say this, but you can avoid cutting another deal in private by televising the negotiations or pretending to. That would be a nice several hour infomercial for HCR. It's probably best for the sidecar if it's elements are popular and simple to understand and that would be good theater.

Posted by: windshouter | January 26, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Why can't we have an "Insta Poll website" available to us ... you know, a website where all citizens who are interested (and have access) could "vote" up or down on the various options for passing HCR (and all other bills, as well)?

This would give reps 'instant' feedback/input on important issues and would be far superior to individual emails, organized petition-type emails, individual phone-calls, snail-mail letters, polls, etc.

Why don't we already have this??

Posted by: onewing1 | January 26, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Seems like if the House passed the bill, even without the promise of reconciliation, that would put an enormous amount of pressure on the White House to push for reconciliation, for it was the White House that brokered the compromise with the unions regarding the "Cadillac tax." The only way that deal makes it into the bill is through reconciliation.

The White House seemed to go out of its way to protect its deal with Pharma, so one would assume they would go to bat for the union deal - if not, there will be a huge backlash from the unions, and the House could simply say: "Don't blame us, blame the Senate and the White House. We passed this bill on good faith that it would be fixed through reconciliation."

Then, once reconciliation is on the table, make it as liberal as the 50 vote threshold will allow, maybe even put the public option back in (take that, Lieberman!) - after all, the public option was one of the most popular aspects of the bill.

Posted by: tnoord | January 26, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

I really can't believe this. I have been following the health care debate every day since May, and I can't believe the Democrats wussed out at this point when they could have still got it passed. What does this leave? If the Democrats aren't going to get things done, ....I need to find a new hobby, something that doesn't involve thinking about or knowing anything about the news. This is too much. I can't believe it.

Posted by: christopherfarrell | January 26, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

couldnt agree with you more christopherfarrell. whats the point. I've always said that our most important job as citizens is to be informed and vote. I frankly dont see the point in voting anymore. Nothing happens.

The sad part is this is especially true of losercrats. The Republicans would have passed their entire agenda by now if they had 60 votes. While a disagree with the GOP, I am a person that would do well under their agenda so maybe I should just vote for them. At least something will get done. It is a joke. Never seen such a bunch of cowards, spineless bums.

Posted by: fiorehoffmann | January 26, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

christopherfarrell you are the spokesman for a new generation

it's beyond sad, it's bewildering to understand how out of touch with their voters these politicans are, including, I finally have to conclude, Obama. For every day you've been watching this process I've been right there saying I'll give Obama time because I think he plays a long game. But now I see no game at all.

Now the news is on freezes and other junk that doesn't matter today, while Rome burns.

So the Democrats are done. The Republicans are not an answer. How will we ever save the climate from an ungodly catastrophe?

Posted by: rosshunter | January 26, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

"Why can't we have an "Insta Poll website" available to us ... you know, a website where all citizens who are interested (and have access) could "vote" up or down on the various options for passing HCR (and all other bills, as well)?

This would give reps 'instant' feedback/input on important issues and would be far superior to individual emails, organized petition-type emails, individual phone-calls, snail-mail letters, polls, etc.

Why don't we already have this??"

Because it would be INCREDIBLY unrepresentative. It'd be skewed in the direction of whatever special interest was able to mobilize enough people or, alternatively, had the most workers to press the "yes" or "no" button over and over again.

Random-sample polling may have its problems, but at least it's methods are upfront and are capable of capturing, with a known degree of accuracy, the public's beliefs about a subject (if they have beliefs).

Posted by: y2josh_us | January 26, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Ezra: "The bill's most popular policies -- like the public option and the Medicare buy-in..."

Popular among Progressives but not the public at large.


Posted by: tbass1 | January 27, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

So Nelson, Bayh, Lincoln et al announce a priori that they will vote against any bill reached in reconciliation, even if it turns out to be a good bill which helps their constitutents? What thougtful, conscientious, and committed public servants!

Explain to me why we would not be better off without these bozos.

Posted by: exgovgirl | January 27, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

The Democrats are insulting our intelligence when they suggest they will try again in a couple months. Obviously it is now or never, delay works against passage.

The other misdirection is the talk of a pared-down bipartisian bill.

They are not going to get away with sweeping this craven retreat under the rug.

Posted by: HuckFinn | January 27, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

TBass1,

The Medicare buy-in provision was definitely popular with the general public, not just progressives. The public option also generally polled well, although to a certain extent that depended on the wording of the polling.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/06/public-support-for-public-option.html

Posted by: PeterH1 | January 27, 2010 7:12 AM | Report abuse

"51 senators could enact a better bill than 60 senators."

And 41 could enact a better bill than 59.

In fact, I'd bet 41 senators could write a bill that would get more than 60 votes -- something 51 senators obviously couldn't accomplish.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | January 27, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Ezra - It's looking less likely by the day that reconciliation will even have 51 votes.

And stop with the Medicare buy-in. It. Will. Not. Happen. Not a chance. Docs and hospitals oppose it and that is all that matters.

Posted by: MBP2 | January 27, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

"The public option also generally polled well, although to a certain extent that depended on the wording of the polling."

Free lunches poll well, too. Yet when you put prices on the menu some people choose to eat elsewhere. Go figure.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | January 27, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

"The Republicans would have passed their entire agenda by now if they had 60 votes."

I dunno about that. They didn't have 60 votes, admittedly, but they sure bungled Social Security reform. They couldn't avoid have built in sunsets on the Bush tax cuts. The base wasn't exactly thrilled with their performance during the Bush years, I'll tell ya that.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 27, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

To "cut a deal" with the House as an institution, or to get a bill that will please the 10 House members to offset Stupak according to Nate, is different than "cutting a deal" with one Senator, Ben Nelson. People expect the two houses to come together all the time. This fear may be about passing Stupak to get a bill.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia | January 27, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I am starting to get angry at what appears to be the stupidity on display here. The leadership is there to see what they can get 50 votes for.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia | January 27, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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