Thursday, March 4, 2010
Today, President Obama has officially endorsed using the Senate tactic of budget reconciliation to force an up or down (50 senators plus the vice president to break a tie) vote on healthcare reform. This leaves the Republican minority with only two realistic options to delay or stop the bill from coming to a vote. The first is a series of parliamentary objections - essentially challenging whether or not various portions of the bill are actually budgetary (they aren't, but it will be interesting to see if the Democrat appointed Senate Parliamentarian will agree.) The second (and probably more effective) tool the Republicans have is the ability to offer unlimited amendments to the bill. Each amendment would eat up about 30 or so minutes of floor time, between explaining the amendment and vote time. Offering hundreds or even thousands of amendments could delay a vote for months. The longer this drags out, the worse things get for the Democrats.
But this talk of reconciliation in the senate is a tool of the White House. Their goal is to put all of the focus on the senate, where the Democrats have the upper hand - needing only 51 votes. They want us to focus on reconciliation. Why? Because the real battle is in the United States House of Representatives.
The healthcare bill originally passed the House by a vote of 220-215. The one Republican to vote for it, Joseph Cao of LA-2, has said he will not support the bill again, declaring the abortion language in the bill unacceptable. Bart Stupak of MI-1 has said the same. Jack Murtha died last month. Robert Wexler of Florida and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii have retired. Shelley Berkley, who represents NV-1 (Las Vegas) has stated she will not support the bill because she does not trust the Senate to pass the "reconciliation fix." That is a loss of 6 votes for the Democrats, enough to stop the bill. In addition, Bart Stupak claims to have 10-15 pro-life Democrats who voted for the bill the first time, but will not without the Stupak language in the bill.
Dick Morris has a list of vulnerable congressmen who voted YES last time, and are wavering this time. Some of these people are ultra-socialist members of the Democratic party from Republican districts that are almost certain to lose, like Alan Grayson (FL-8). Some are moderate Democrats who voted YES last time and are from Republican districts (Zach Space from Ohio, Tom Perriello of Virginia, Earl Pommeroy of North Dakota.)
I think its unlikely to convince any of the socialists like Grayson and Shea-Porter (NH) to switch - they are hacks who will gladly sacrifice their careers to pass healthcare. Those congressmen will not be reelected anyway. But there are many Democrats from Republican districts who can be convinced to change their vote.
I encourage any of you to check out Dick Morris' list and contact your congressman if he or she is on that list. This will be a great insurance policy in the event that some of Stupak's pro-life coalition collapses or if Pelosi is able to find votes elsewhere.
Either way, the place to stop this is the house. Forget reconciliation and the Senate for now.
Update: SusanAnne Hiller at RedState has more info on why the real battle is in the House.