While certainly getting the 60th vote in the Senate is a success for the supporters of health care reform it seems to me that the celebratory articles and statements are a bit like calling a victory at halftime as there is still quite a lot of work to be done.
Taking the sports analogy further, the passage of the bill through the House was the winning the 1st Quarter and the probable passage in the Senate will be a win in the 2nd. But there is still quite a lot of work to be done. During halftime they have to start making plans for the 2nd half (IE Conference committee).
As I’ve observed before, having one bill with public option but no abortion funding and another that is the exact reverse will be difficult to reconcile. I assume they will work over the holidays to try and come up with some proposal that will eventually pass through conference (any debate they have in conference is for show, the real decisions will be made ahead of time).
The 2nd half will require another set of votes in the House (3rd Quarter) and Senate (4th Quarter) and this is not going to be easy.
Some in the House are already saying that the absence of a public option is unacceptable while Congressman Stupak (and presumably his supporters) have said the Nelson compromise is unacceptable to them. Considering the fact that the bill barely passed the House, the loss of just a few votes on the abortion issue could kill any conference bill (I doubt any of those who voted against the first version would support a weaker one).
On the Senate side the room for error is even less as they are just barely going to make it to the required 60 votes. If the conferenced bill changes the abortion language it is likely you would see some votes drop off. If the Stupak amendment is adopted in the joint bill you’d see the left revolt, if the Nelson amendment is removed you’d see him drop off the vote.
And of course any public option aspect would lose several votes in the Senate.
As to the bill itself (or at least the current versions thereof) I’m not sure even passage is that much to crow about. The line has been that this is the ‘first step in 100 years’ but I’m not sure that is true. In the first place, what was Medicare and the prescription drug plan ? Wasn’t that some form of reform ? In the second place it doesn’t look like the bill will do too much, especially since it will probably require a great deal of additional ‘adjusting’.
I could also ask at this point where the left was when Republican Presidents proposed health care reform (Nixon and Bush come to mind) but thats a debate for another day.
In the long run we probably will get some sort of bill, though it may be even more stripped down than the current version. Basically at this point it’s less about health care reform itself that giving Obama and the Democrats something to point to for their base in November 2010.