Chicago Sun-Times
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Podesta prediction: Senate Dems pass health bill


Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta on Monday predicted that a health care bill will pass one way or the other--with or without Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) the Independent who objects to a health insurance public option or expanding Medicare to cover certain 55-year olds.

Democrats need Lieberman for a filibuster-proof supermajority of 60 votes. They easily have a majority. Without Lieberman, Democrats have a harder job getting to 60--- needing to lure a Republican to vote for the bill. An alternative would be to use a bit of legislative slight-of-hand--a process that does not allow filibusters called "reconciliation"--where 51 votes are needed to pass a measure. Or, as Poltiico is reporting Monday afternoon, the White House is encouraging Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) just to cut a deal with Lieberman.

Podesta, the president of the Center for American Progress --who advises the Obama administration on health care issues--was a guest Monday morning at a reporters breakfast. I asked him about the prospects of using reconciliation.

"We've taken a look at it. It is definitely possible. It can be done," Podesta said.

Bottom line:

"My guess is that musty folders on reconciliation got dusted off this morning,"


To get to 60 votes, why not bypass Lieberman and go for Snowe with a trigger for either a public option or for expanding Medicare? I expect health care reform to pass.

The thing about reconciliation is that you lose anything not having to do with the budget (e.g. the abortion restrictions, more than likely). The Catholic Bishops and conservative dems didn't oppose taxpayer money being used for abortion because they were concerned about the budgetary impact of it, so that's probably going to be removed.

So without the abortion measures, you may very well not even have a simple majority in the House. Plus, you lose the preexisting conditions, and anything else not having to do with the budget directly, not peripherally.

It seems that the end goal of the strategy would be to grant reconciliatory status to the conference report, not just the Senate bill (maybe perhaps via the Senate bill, though). So one method (if I understand this correctly) would be to grant reconciliatory status to the House bill, which has already passed, then the stuff gets stripped out, and it goes directly to both houses for an up or down, filibuster proof vote (debate limited to 10 days). Lots of stuff gets stripped out by a non-partisan individual called a parliamentarian -- all the consumer protections and rights and so on would have to passed separately, as would any additional restrictions on abortion (probably). That probably wouldn't work -- well, it might, but losing the pre-existing conditions and having to introduce new legislation, just like losing abortion funding restrictions and having to introduce new legislation destroys the quid-pro-quo nature of the situation, and you may have the pre-exisiting conditions pass with broad bipartisan support, while the gutted monstrosity goes down in flames. Too risky.

Essentially, the main utility of reconciliation would be to have a filibuster-proof conference report -- but what good is that if you can't get a simple majority in the House? Reconciliation isn't all that it's cracked up to be, at least in this case.


I expect to see health care reform pass, too. Here is how I think it might happen: Dems will bypass Sen. Lieberman and get Sen. Snowe's vote by including a trigger for some form of a public option or insurance cooperatives -- or maybe even a trigger for the expansion of Medicare to those over age 55 who do not have insurance. I am not sure Sen. Lieberman's vote will be needed.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 14, 2009 1:44 PM.

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