Jonathan Bernstein at Sully’s place:
Item: Barack Obama has done just about everything he could do in the last few weeks to put his reputation on the line over passage of the bill. Why would he do that unless he was pretty confident that it would get done?
Item: Over the last few days, it appears that the House has finally accepted that Pass, Then Patch is the logical way to do this: Steny Hoyer admitted as much over the weekend, and the leaked schedule (via Jonathan Cohn) calls for Pass on March 19, Patch in the House soon after, and Patch in the Senate beginning on March 26.
Item: Ten House Dems who voted against the bill the first time around are telling the AP (via Jonathan Chait) that they might vote yes this time around. Chait is right about the incentives here as far as public statements are concerned. I’d put it this way: there’s an easily understandable story of going from no, to maybe, to yes…but it makes no sense at all to go from no, to maybe, to no.
I should emphasize here that it is very, very rare for the majority to lose a high-stakes vote on final passage on the House floor. You just don’t bring a bill to the floor unless you know you’re going to win. I can’t imagine a reason that Nancy Pelosi and the White House would bring this to the floor knowing that they were going to lose, for some sort of spin advantage. They either know that they have the votes, or it’s the biggest bluff in who knows how long. Keep watching: does the president really announce the schedule tomorrow that was leaked today? Does the Speaker really keep to that schedule, or do leaks start appearing about pushing it back a few days? I don’t think so, however. I think they have the votes.
Ben Smith at Politico:
According to [a] Democratic memo, the timeline may be: Step one: The House passes the Senate’s health reform bill by March 19. The bill then goes to the president for signature without going through conference….After the Senate bill becomes law, the House then amends the Senate bill through a reconciliation bill, to be passed by March 21. That bill would be the only opportunity to amend, add or strike provisions in the Senate bill. Step three: The Senate begins debate on the reconciliation bill by March 23. Debate is limited to 30 hours. Votes begin March 26, the first day of Easter recess…
Part of the goal: Avoiding making the Easter Recess a repeat of August’s.
Jonathan Cohn at TNR:
Majority Leader Harry Reid undoubtedly hopes that the timing will offer Republicans incentive to drop the stunt, since the longer they prolong debate the more they eat into Easter recess–assuming, of course, Democrats can get the reconciliation bill to the Senate before the recess begins. (Via Politico.)
One thing to keep in mind: While this memo is consistent with what a lot of insiders have been saying lately, everything remains in flux. Obama hasn’t even put forward his final compromise proposal, let alone get sign-off from the House and Senate. And if the proposals themselves aren’t fixed yet, it’s safe to assume the timelines aren’t either.
Tevi Troy at National Review Online:
The pitfalls in this crazy quilt process are numerous. The House could fail to pass the Senate bill. As a result of two resignations, a death, and a defection, Speaker Pelosi only has 216 votes right now, which is the bare minimum of what she needs, and the Democratic bills have not gotten any popular since the House last voted in November. In addition, House members are often reluctant to take tough votes without some assurance that the Senate would act, and this process would require them to act twice before the Senate moved at all. The Senate must also come up with the votes, not just for the policy, which is probably doable, but also for using the reconciliation process in this way, which a number of Senate Democrats have objected to in the past. And then there is the reconciliation process itself, in which provisions must be ruled germane to budget reconciliation by the Senate parliamentarian. This parliamentary review could result in what a former Senate parliamentarian has called a “Swiss cheese” bill, in which a variety of provisions of the bill are ruled not germane and thus moved out of the final product. In a bill as complicated as the health-care bill, this Swiss-cheesing of the final product could have significant and unpredictable consequences on the working of the bill should it become law.
It looks as if the House Democrats are the key to this whole procedure. They are bringing March in like a lion on the health-care-overhaul front. But in order for the scheme to succeed, the House Democrats will have to act like lambs twice before the Senate deigns to proceed.
Hey, why not? President Obama and the Democrats don’t think you care about the process, so why not pull another holiday gambit and cram the government health care takeover down your throats right before Easter/Passover? Just more of that thoughtful “deliberation” (translation: get me the hell out of here, I gotta get on a plane for my vacation break/fundraiser/meeting with lobbyists!) brought to you by the ruling majority.
Timothy Noah at Slate:
Pelosi needs to pick up a baker’s dozen votes to pass health reform. Where will she get them? It would make sense to start with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Eric Massa, D-N.Y., who voted against health reform last fall because they thought the bill was too conservative. Kucinich probably knew when he cast his nay that it wouldn’t decide its fate. Might he be willing to rescue it now? Apparently not. Kucinich told the Wall Street Journal last week that Obama’s proposal “starts with a wholly unacceptable Senate health care bill and, with a few exceptions, continues to make it worse. It’s a much better bill for insurance company investors than it is for the American people.” Maybe she’ll have better luck with Massa, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it; Massa used his nay vote to raise campaign funds among single-payer supporters.
Next there are House Democrats who are retiring. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., voted for the bill in the Energy and Commerce committee before he voted against it on the House floor. Also retiring are John Tanner, D-Tenn., and Brian Baird, D-Wash. They voted against health reform, too. The theory goes that if these three no longer have to run for re-election, maybe they’ll support health reform as a favor to Pelosi. But if they no longer plan to serve in the House, what practical reason would any of them have to do Pelosi any favors now?
The least promising recruiting pool of all are the conservative Democrats who voted against the bill. Arguably last week’s bipartisan meeting at Blair House (morning session, afternoon session) was held entirely for their benefit. But are they grateful? Don’t count on it. After the November House vote, the New York Times assembled a very revealing chart that showed no fewer than 31 of the 39 House Democrats who voted nay represented districts that went for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Subtract Gordon, Tanner, and Baird, and you’re left with five potential targets: Scott Murphy, D-N.Y.; Glenn Nye, D-Va.; Larry Kissell, D-N.C.; John Barrow, D-Ga.; and Artur Davis, D-Ala.
Let’s assume Pelosi picks up all five. She’s still short by about eight votes. Let’s suppose she picks up all five, plus the three retiring members, plus the two dissenting liberals. (That isn’t going to happen.) That’s 10 votes, which still probably isn’t enough.
This is why I wrote the pope to request he give health care reform a papal dispensation. Without one, the bill will almost certainly fail.
UPDATE: Jonathan Chait at TNR