ABC’s Jake Trapper (a highly reliable reporter who is well-sourced) reports that President Barack Obama is going to soon signal that he will back use of the controversial “reconciliation” process to pass health care reform if GOP cooperation isn’t in the cards.
And it looks like it isn’t so…
White House officials tell ABC News that in his remarks tomorrow President Obama will indicate a willingness to work with Republicans on some issue to get a health care reform bill passed but will suggest that if it is necessary, Democrats will use the controversial “reconciliation” rules requiring only 51 Senate votes to pass the “fix” to the Senate bill, as opposed to the 60 votes to stop a filibuster and proceed to a vote on a bill.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been awaiting the president’s remarks direction on how health care reform will proceed.
In his remarks, scheduled to be at the White House, the president will paint a picture of what he will say will happen without a health care reform bill – skyrocketing premiums, everyone at the mercy of the insurance industry as recently seen with the 39% premium increases proposed by Anthem Blue Cross in California.
He will note that the “fixed” bill will include the proposal for a new “Health Insurance Rate Authority” to set guidelines for reasonable rate increases. If proposed premium increases are not justifiable per those Health Insurance Rate Authority guidelines, the Health and Human Services Secretary or state regulators could block them.
The plan to pass the bill includes having the House of Representatives pass the Democratic Senate health care reform legislation as well as a second bill containing various “fixes.”
The president will call for an up or down vote on health care reform, as has happened in the past, and though he won’t use the word “reconciliation,” he’ll make it clear that if they’re not given an up or down vote, Democrats will use the reconciliation rules as Republicans have done in the past.
According to Trapper, White House officials will argue that reconcilation is proper, indeed in this case:
White House officials will make the argument these rules are perfectly appropriate because the procedure is not being used for the whole bill, just for some fixes; because reconciliation rules are traditionally used for deficit reduction and health care reform will reduce the deficit; and because the reconciliation process has been used many times by Republicans for larger legislation such as the tax cuts pushed by President George W. Bush.
A White House official says the president will “reiterate why reform is so crucial and what it will mean for American families and businesses: they’ll have more control over their own health care, they’ll see lower costs , and they’ll see an end to insurance company abuses. He’ll note that his proposal includes the best ideas from both parties, and he’ll restate his preference for a comprehensive bill that will reduce premiums and end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.”
Several things on this:
Additionally, both parties need independent voters. As noted here, the race is on to see which party alienates independents more. Reconciliation will not be welcomed by many independents, no matter how the White House explains it. On the other hand, independent voters are not a monolithic block.
But if the GOP during the attempt to use reconciliation effectively shuts down Congress or afterwards drags its heels and short-circuits getting anything done, it will neutralize any negative impact reconcilation would among those independent voters whose hearts don’t actually belong to the tea party movement. And those are a lot of independent, swing voters.
FOOTNOTE: The battle will also be on among Democrats and Republicans to prove which party is the most hypocritical on reconciliation. Are the Democrats using it in a way it was never used before? Are the Republicans screaming about it now when they had no problem using it to enact George Bush’t tax cuts or whatever Ronald Reagan sought to do to bypass the filibuster?
Political junkies will debate those points. But the general public will be most impacted by 1)if a bill gets through Congress having a good experience with it or learning more about it and being impressed, 2)seeing government get something done.
So the Democrats face huge risks — but so does the GOP in how it responds.
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.