Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Will the Democrats' Plan B work? Probably not

The New York Times reports that the Democratic leaders are pushing hard to go with Plan B - having the House pass the Senate bill as is and then hope to come back later in the reconciliation process for the budget iron out whatever differences there still are between what House Democrats want and what is in the Senate bill.

Perhaps they are, but I am skeptical that they would achieve success with that plan. The Democratic members of the House don't want to jump off a cliff even if Pelosi is willing to push them. Patrick O'Connor at Politico reports that there are quite a few House Democrats who don't want to bend over and accept the Senate plan as written.
But another aide acknowledged that a Brown win would force party leaders to recalibrate. This person suggested Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have to convince a skeptical rank-and-file that this was the only course of action.

"I wouldn't want to speculate about that," said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a lead author of the bill, saying he still hopes Coakley can pull it out. If she doesn't, Dodd said, "We'll come back and regroup."

Under the scenario, the House would approve the Senate bill, sending it to the president's desk for his signature. The White House and Senate negotiators would then have to promise to push further changes - such as those hashed out by negotiators last week - through the reconciliation process, in which the majority only needs 51 votes.

The problem, though, with reconciliation is that it can only be used for things that have an impact on the federal budget. That would not relate to insurance reforms already in both bills and may limit the room for future negotiators.

Liberal Democrats in the House have given their leaders an earful about the Senate bill since it passed late last year. Last week, the White House cut a deal with organized labor to soften the impact of a Senate tax on high-end health care plans, in large part, to quell unrest among Democrats in the House. Congressional negotiators are expected to announce additional compromises as early as this week after sending large parts of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office for review.

But the prospect of a Coakley loss threatens to upend those internecine negotiations, angering House Democrats who have been on the short end of just about every development in the health care fight.
Think of what is in the Senate bill that the House Democrats are angry about. Bart Stupak doesn't sound like he's buying what Pelosi is selling.
between the two bills. Despite promises by Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders to add those hard-fought deals and other changes later, there would be no guarantees.

In an interview on Monday, Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who opposes the Senate bill in part because of provisions related to insurance coverage of abortions, said: “House members will not vote for the Senate bill. There’s no interest in that.”

When the idea was suggested at a Democratic caucus meeting last week, Mr. Stupak said, “It went over like a lead balloon.”

“Why would any House member vote for the Senate bill, which is loaded with special-interest provisions for certain states?” Mr. Stupak asked. “That’s not health care.”

In addition to his concerns on the abortion provisions, Mr. Stupak said the Senate bill did not do enough to improve the quality of health care, and it preserved the federal antitrust exemption for health insurance, which the House bill would repeal.
And then there is the whole issue about the union health plans.
Asking House Democrats to adopt the Senate bill is itself a high-risk call. Agreements to resolve differences would essentially be out the window.

The White House and labor unions, for instance, reached a tentative deal last week on an excise tax on high-priced, employer-sponsored insurance plans. Labor groups, an important segment of the Democratic Party’s base, strongly opposed the version of the tax included in the Senate bill because they said it would hit too many union-sponsored health plans and hurt middle-class workers.
It would be a real test of Pelosi's control over her caucus to see if she can twist 218 arms to push through a plan that even many House Democrats can't stand. But consider the arrogance and the blindness to the mood of the country. If Scott Brown wins, it will be a giant repudiation of their plans on health care. He's run explicitly that he will vote to block their plans. And it was this argument that he would be the 41st vote that helped him get into the political limelight to begin with. And the Democrats' reaction is that they'll try to find a way to sneak and cram through the same plan that the country is uniting to oppose? The country is sending them a giant call to slow down and go back to the drawing board in a bipartisan fashion [contrary to their claims, there are all sorts of conservative ideas out there about health care] and they are unplugging the phone and proceeding to do the same things that have ticked people off in the first place.