Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health care reform - The White House looks serious

After Republican Scott Brown won the Senate race in Massachusetts and many of the Congressional Democrats went into a panic, it was unclear for a while whether the Obama White House was giving up on passing a health care reform bill, or whether they were going to make a make a serious push to get some version of the existing Democratic package across the finish line. Well, that question now seems to be answered. They seem determined to Pass The Damn Bill after all--and, if the Republicans try to filibuster it to death, to use the procedural device of "reconciliation" (allowing majority rule in the Senate) to push it through.

That's the word from Greg Sargent (see below), whose political reporting is generally well-sourced and reliable. This is significant, because the threat to get around the filibuster by using reconciliation is a sign that they're really serious. As Sargent remarks, it involves "essentially daring Republicans to try to block reform." It also challenges wavering Congressional Democrats to come off the fence and decide which side they're on. And after an entire year in which the Democrats, unaccountably, let the Congressional Republicans get away with a strategy of unremitting and monolithic obstructionism while making barely a peep about it, over the past several weeks a public-relations offensive highlighting the Republicans' unprecedented abuse of the filibuster has helped to set the stage for a confrontation.

Whether or not this will work remains to be seen. There may be some high-stakes political drama coming up.

--Jeff Weintraub

Marc Ambinder's Politics blog
February 22 2010
White House: If GOP Filibusters, We'll Pass Health Reform Via Reconciliation

The game of chicken commenceth -- right now.

In the course of unveiling Obama's new health reform proposal on a conference call with reporters this morning, White House advisers made it clearer than ever before: If the GOP filibusters health reform, Dems will move forward on their own and pass it via reconciliation.

The assertion, which is likely to spark an angry response from GOP leaders, ups the stakes in advance of the summit by essentially daring Republicans to try to block reform.

"The President expects and believes the American people deserve an up or down vote on health reform," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said on the call.

Pfeiffer said no decision had been made how to proceed, pending the outcome of the summit. But he added that Obama's proposal is designed to have "maximum flexibility to ensure that we can get an up or down vote if the opposition decides to take the extraordinary step of filibustering health reform."