Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reaching the Tipping Point

As we are hearing new reports that members of Congress are considering splitting health care reform into two bills via a "reconciliation" process, Chris Bowers makes the observation:

1. If health care reform without a robust public option cannot pass the House;

2. If not passing a health care reform is considered politically unacceptable by both the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership;

3. And if we have the 50 Senators needed to pass health care through reconciliation;

If we have all three of those things, then passing a public option--either through reconciliation or by convincing all Democrats to not filibuster--becomes by far the easiest move for the White House and Congressional leadership to make. Once we reach that tipping point, we will win this campaign.

I think this observation is right on. Momentum is in favor of those who wish to keep the public option in the legislation and frankly, as long as the progressives in Congress stick to their pledge, there is a good chance that we will see the reform legislation include a public option.

Ezra Klien makes some additional observations about the process of reconciliation:

The Wall Street Journal reports that Senate leadership is considering a two-bill strategy for health-care reform. The first bill would include reform's more difficult and controversial elements. The public option would be there, and the subsidies, and the revenues, and the Medicare and Medicaid cuts. This bill would be passed through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes for passage. The second bill would follow the normal order, and include health-care reform's least controversial elements, which also happen to be the elements that aren't really related to the federal budget and so aren't permitted in the reconciliation process: the insurance market regulations, the health insurance exchanges and so forth.

The idea is that the first bill could get 51 votes with little problem but might not clear 60, so it needs to travel through reconciliation. The second bill could clear 60 easily, so it can be pursued outside reconciliation, which is a good thing, given that it's probably ineligible for the reconciliation process.

My initial reaction to reading this was puzzling. If this strategy was meant to subvert Republican opposition then I don't really see why it would be necessary, but Klein makes this point which I find interesting:

The one potential answer is that reconciliation isn't about bypassing the GOP at all. It's about bypassing a handful of centrist Democrats. Angry Republicans won't support a consensus-oriented second bill after being cut out of the important work of the first. But Democrats like Kent Conrad might, as reconciliation won't specifically have hurt them, even as its real point was to take the process out of their hands and put it back in the hand of the Democratic Senate Leadership.

I think this makes some sense, but I am interested to see more information on the benefits of a two-bill strategy.

Also, just as a note...I will be traveling tomorrow through Sunday so blogging will be minimal to non-existent over that period of time.

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