House Progressives Willing to Back Modified Senate Bill, Centrist Senators Resume Customary Posture as Villains

To review, two weeks ago the House had passed a health care bill and the Senate had passed a health care bill. Leaders were discussing a compromise between the two versions that could then be voted on again by the House and the Senate. And negotiators were converging on a bill based largely on the Senate’s model, but with a few key modifications especially to the implementation of the tax on unusually expensive health insurance plans. Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election scrambled everything, but actually changes very little. House and Senate leaders can agree on a package of modifications, at which point the House can pass the Senate bill plus the modifications package, and then the Senate can use the reconciliation process to pass the modifications.

But in the wake of the election, the House Democrats spent a while freaking out instead of doing that. Now Brian Beutler reports that they’re prepared to do the right thing:

Leading Democrats in the House still insist that “all options are on the table” to move ahead on health care. But for the first time since last Tuesday’s special election in Massachusetts, it’s clear that they’re coalescing around the most widely discussed option: moving ahead with the Senate bill once it’s clear that it will be changed through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. Before they can move ahead, they need the Senate to make some real headway on their end of the bargain — and they’re not getting the signs they need.

“I thought we could get the votes in the House to pass the [Senate] bill if fixes to the Senate bill can be done,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) told reporters today.


“That would be a good option as far as I’m concerned,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), leader of the House progressives’ health care task force. “I could support it. Reconciliation. Majority rule.”

Excellent work, all around.

Unfortunately, the always troublesome “centrist” Democratic Senators seem prepared to resume their customary role as the villains whose consistently egomaniacal and self-destructive behavior has badly damaged the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans, rendered the president ineffective, and landed themselves and their copartisans in a bucket of electoral hot water. Now a whole passel of them — Landrieu, Bayh, Lincoln, Lieberman, Pryor, Begich, Nelson, McCaskill — have expressed varying levels of unease with the idea. They really need to get over it.This amounts to voting “yes” a second time on something they’ve already voted for. The downside is already baked into the cake, and getting something done offers the chance to try to defend their work and go on offense.