House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear yesterday that House Democrats, at this point, do not have the votes to pass the Senate health care bill in its current form . With no chances of the Senate approving a revised version of comprehensive reform (now that Democrats have lost their cherised 60th vote), Democrats' options for passing a health care bill are limited to a couple of choices. Either way, conservatives are likely to portray it as a political loss for for Democrats.
Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate special election essentially obliterated any chance Democrats in the Senate had at passing a revised health care reform bill. In the wake of that blow to Democrats, two options for passing reform have emerged:
One option would be for House Democrats to pass the Senate bill -- on the condition that Democrats would make revisions to the legislation through a separate "fix it" bill passed in the Senate via reconciliation (a procedural step that only requires a 51-vote majority). The second option would be for the House and Senate to simply pass a pared-down health care bill that could win some Republican votes -- a bill, for instance, that only includes insurance regulations and a few other widely-popular ideas.
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So far, the idea of passing the Senate bill plus a "fix it" bill appears to face resistance in both the House and the Senate.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement today that he cannot support passing the Senate bill now and attempting to fix it later.
"Viewing the Senate bill as the simplest and least controversial vehicle for reform is a tempting but misguided trap," he said. "There are too many elements of this bill that make no sense for me to cast my vote in favor."
Grijalva said he would prefer to pass a more robust reform plan via reconciliation, along with a second bill with widely-popular reforms. "This approach ensures that much of what we sought to achieve with health care reform will be enacted without the need to re-engage a debate on how to 'fix' the irredeemable Senate bill in the face of unrelenting Republican obstructionism," he said.
Senate Democrats also shot down the idea of a "fix it" bill, Politico reports.
"The Senate moderates' viewpoint is, 'We passed our bill. We're not going to spend three weeks on some other bill,'" said a Democratic lobbyist said.
As for the idea of passing a pared-down version of reform, some Democrats are reportedly worried the strategy could look like a Republican victory, Huffington Post reports.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "will have his whole caucus vote for it and make it a political win for the Republicans," a Democratic health care strategist told Huffington Post. "They'll say, 'This was the Republican plan from the beginning. We're glad the Democrats joined us.' And take all the credit for passing reform."
Former GOP leader Newt Gingrich told Politico it would be "clever" for Republicans to go along with such a strategy, though he suspects many House Republicans simply refuse to work with Pelosi at all.
Liberals are also skeptical Republicans would go along with a Democratic bill, even if it were pared down.
"The GOP's argument against health care reform, from the beginning, was that Democrats all secretly want a single-payer system," a Democratic aide told Talking Points Memo. "Hasn't it occurred to House Democrats that the GOP would simply say the exact same thing about these 'smaller chunks' they're talking about breaking the bill into? They'd even say it about the stuff that's considered popular."
The aide points out the GOP was ready to said this week.
And conservative commentators are already calling "Obamacare" -- in whatever form it takes -- a loss for Democrats.
"We're probably looking more at a Square One approach, and this time the Obama administration may try to draft key Republicans into the talks in order to get bipartisan cover," Ed Morrissey at Hot Air wrote. "Either way, it's an ignominious defeat for Obama and Pelosi, whose radical approach and 'I won' attitude finally caught up with them."
President Obama today, however, said he was not ready to give up.
"I know folks in Washington are in a little bit of a frenzy this week, trying to figure out what the election in Massachusetts the other day means for health insurance reform, for Republicans and Democrats, and for me," he said during a visit to Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. "But this isn't about me. It's about you... And I am not going to walk away just because it's hard."