If all you’re doing is looking at the rules of the Senate, it certainly appears that Senator Conrad is right. He’s also being very politic – inasmuch as Democrats would pay a heavy price if they passed a costly, tax-raising health care plan, which went on to become a political liability in the midterm elections. That said, the liberal activists who animate the Democratic party are desperate for a government-run plan. It’s the wedge they need to get to single-payer, and in the view of many it is the only reason to pursue health care ‘reform.’ For all that reason, Conrad’s warning – that no health care reform is possible without significant Republican support – will make put him firmly in the crosshairs of the left’s fever swamp:
Liberal health reform advocates have talked about ramming a reform plan — including a Medicare-like public insurance option — through the Senate with only 51 Democratic votes. But a leading Senate player says it won’t work.
If an attempt is made to pass health reform under “reconciliation” rules — requiring just a simple majority vote — Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told me, the bill would be so pared down, “you’d be left with Swiss cheese…”
Reconciliation rules, he said, require that a bill be scored as deficit-reducing over six years and that any substantive policy change in it also have a fiscal purpose.
The result, said Conrad, is that “you’d be left with a dramatically reduced package” that would fall short of comprehensive health reform.
“You would have a very hard time expanding coverage to the 46 million who don’t have it,” he said, and the “Byrd Rule” — requiring fiscal germaneness —could strip the bill of many of its policy provisions.
So, Conrad said, “health reform needs to be passed on a 60-vote basis, and that means it needs to be bipartisan.”
And that, he said, all but certainly rules out including a government-run “public plan” like Medicare designed to “compete with” — or replace — private insurance companies.
The fight over a government-run plan is shaping up as the most important one in the health care debate. If Democrats succeed in setting up Washington bureaucrats in a taxpayer-funded insurance company, you can be confident that they will eventually be deciding on your plan and rationing your benefits. The last thing liberals want is for a leading Senate Democrat to be throwing in the towel before the fight is fully engaged.
This shows how important it is for you to contact your Senator and make clear your opposition to the ‘public plan.’ That’s especially true if you’re represented by an undecided or moderate Senator – Democrat or Republican.
Conrad mentions Olympia Snowe as one Republican who might support a compromise. He says that Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) oppose the plan. Among other potential Democrat opponents, he lists Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).
If you are a constituent, make your voice heard!