Reconciliation Update: Some Dems, GOP And Industry Groups Wary Of Health Bill Strategy
The Los Angeles Times: "Obama's signature ability to inspire fellow Democrats and Pelosi's well-honed ability to read their parochial needs will be tested as they tackle the job of finding the last stubborn votes for the healthcare bill. ... "Under the Democrats' strategy, the House would pass the Senate's version of the bill. Then both chambers would approve changes under the budget reconciliation process, which could pass the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority. Democrats hope to finish by the end of the month" (Hook and Levey, 3/8).
"The President said health care deserves a simple up and down vote," according to NPR's Liane Hansen. "This means he's endorsing a reconciliation vote which requires a simple majority in the Senate rather than a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority. By the end of [last] week, the Democrats still didn't have the votes they need to pass it." NPR correspondent Mara Liasson adds, that one reason is departing lawmakers: "We've had seven Democratic retirements in districts that John McCain won in 2008 Retirements are the key to their political fortunes" (Liasson and Hansen, 3/7).
The New York Times provides a "handy road map for the next three weeks. ... Confused about how many votes it will take to pass the Senate bill, and then the reconciliation bill, in the House? Even House Democratic leaders have been left guessing in recent days. The short answer is a simple majority present and voting. With a full 435 House members, that number is 218. But there will not be 435. After a death and three resignations, including that of Representative Eric Massa, Democrat of New York, on Monday, there will be 431 House members. With everyone voting, 216 wins" (Herszenhorn, 3/8).
Roll Call: "Democratic leaders appear close to an agreement on a reconciliation bill, which would act as a companion vehicle of adjustments to the $871 billion health care package that the Senate approved in December."
"Democratic leaders expect to obtain a Congressional Budget Office analysis of their reconciliation package by week's end, after which they would forward the legislation to the Senate Parliamentarian to ensure that it complies with the chamber's strict rules for 51-vote bills."Those rules are narrow and any bill would face both challenges from Republicans and suspicions from House lawmakers who may find that their requested changes do not survive the parliamentarian's review (Drucker, 3/8).
One aspect of reconciliation is that industry groups find it difficult to sway lawmakers under the rules, Roll Call adds in a separate story. "Lobbyists said that reconciliation does not lend itself well to outside pressure because rules limit the substance of the bill to issues directly tied to the budget. Furthermore, they say now that President Barack Obama has outlined what he wants to see in the measure, there is less leeway for input from industry groups" (Roth, 3/8).
Republicans are bracing for the fight. "If Senate Democrats used reconciliation to make changes to their healthcare bill, Republicans would pull out every stop to bring work in the Senate to a halt between now and the November elections, both [Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,] and [Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.,] conceded," The Christian Science Monitor reports. "To Graham, using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform circumvents the very mandate for consensus-building that makes the Senate unique." Both appeared on CBS' Face the Nation (Sappenfield, 3/7).