UPDATE — About an hour after this post, Pelosi admits she does not have the votes to pass the unamended Senate bill on the House floor.
As soon as Senator McConnell objected to the appointment of the Conferees of on behalf of Senator DeMint, the Democrats in the House, each, individually, were given an unprecedented opportunity to influence the amendment that the House would vote on to change the Senate bill.
This meant that the very small margin of error on the House floor — which has since become one vote less because a Democratic House Member has left his seat — created huge leverage for each individual Democratic House Member. They are not used to this amount of leverage, nor are the Speaker and the other House leaders on health care used to dealing with Members with this amount of leverage.
So, the Speaker must listen to everyone’s demands. And the Republicans were left out, helping, I am certain, Brown win in Massachusetts. (Thank you Senator DeMint.)
Into this unstable political environment, enter Big Labor and the Progressive outside groups. They just took the Dems shortest route to passing their health reform law off the table — which is passing the Senate bill unamended so it can go directly to the President for his signature.
PlumLine’s Greg Sargent reports: “AFL-CIO legislative director Bill Samuel tells me in an interview that labor won’t support any efforts by the House to pass the Senate health bill in its current form.”
Add to this the Progressive’s efforts to illustrate that a portion of the 20% of Democrats who voted for Brown — they say 82% of the 20% — supported the public option, meaning Progressives had a key role to play in electing Brown because the Democrats in Washington walked away from the public option.
Therefore, add both Big Labor and the Progressives to NYET on voting yes for an unamended Senate bill on the House floor, and the two vote margin of victory on the House floor is shredded.
This leaves the Speaker, the White House and Senator Reid the very politically complicated and difficult process they have been struggling with since Christmas:
1) craft an amendment to change the Senate bill which must pass on the House floor; then
2) pass the amended Senate bill on the House floor; and then,
3) when the new amended House bill goes back to the Senate, it must get 60 votes — Senator Brown’s no vote notwithstanding — and the political effect of his election from Massachusetts notwithstanding.
We are approaching zero odds of the above ever happening — far less than one percent, I’d say.
The problem is that the changes the House needs to make to the bill so it will pass the House will make the same bill die in the Senate by denying it 60 votes. And if you think the state-wide election of Senator Brown has spooked the House Dems, just imagine how those Dems in the Senate up in November feel.
In short, passing the Senate bill on the House floor is out — Rep. Stupak says there are less than 100 Democratic votes for the bill.
And as explained above, amending the Senate bill on the House floor, then passing the amended bill and sending it to the Senate where it must get 60 votes, is also out.
It also means that the Hail Mary pass play being pushed by the hard core we must reform no matter the cost crowd of pass the Senate bill unchanged and use reconciliation at the same time to make changes that work, is also out. (See above where the unamended Senate bill has no chance of passage on the House floor.)
So, what options are left?
This leaves the Democrats latest march off the health reform cliff ploy — a “smaller” health bill.
Republicans that have been left out of the politically toxic process are now expected to join in and vote for a bill the Democrats themselves create in their ad-hoc group of the White House, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid non-conference?
If the Democrats want a smaller health care bill, they need to start over — in Committees in both the House and Senate and create a new bill that is not ObamaCare.
But it appears that they are trying to cheat the process again — and keep their politically radioactive bill intact as much as possible, and convince Republicans to join them in the Senate and the House.
The only way the Democrats are going to gain the Republican’s cooperation is to have a real and serious bi-partisan approach beginning at the Committee level. This would mean, however, health care legislation will dominate the headlines until the fall elections — something that would injure the Democrats even more than the they have already.
The Democrats keep saying they will work on something other than health care, but, of course, they cannot help themselves or stop themselves, so I am happy to start back at the Committee level and have this debate again. It ought to result in a GOP super-majority.
The Democrats best option is to simply let their health care reform effort take its natural course, and drift into outer-darkness.