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Obama Admin on Health Care: If Republicans Won't Join Us, We'll Do it Without Them

July 15, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

There are maybe two Republicans in the Senate who might be open to some version of Obama’s health care legislation. Besides that, every Republican in Congress seems to have already decided that they will vote against any of the proposals being floated, including the Senate Finance version that is expected to contain barely a hint of the public option plan, if that.

But that doesn’t mean the bill can’t be passed. Democrats have a procedural option that would allow them to pass the bill without any Republican support, and the Obama Administration now is coming out sand saying that they are not afraid to use it:

President Barack Obama may rely only on Democrats to push health-care legislation through the U.S. Congress if Republican opposition doesn’t yield soon, two of the president’s top advisers said.

“Ultimately, this is not about a process, it’s about results,” David Axelrod, Obama’s senior political strategist, said during an interview in his White House office. “If we’re going to get this thing done, obviously time is a-wasting.”

Both Axelrod and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said taking a partisan route to enacting major health-care legislation isn’t the president’s preferred choice. Yet in separate interviews, each man left that option open.

“We’d like to do it with the votes of members of both parties,” Axelrod said. “But the worst result would be to not get health-care reform done.”

Here’s how this could play out: Democrats in Congress continue to try to get a few Republicans on board for a compromise (and make sure they don’t lose conservative Democrats). If no good compromise is found before, say, the August recess, they come back in the fall, push forward with a bill that includes a “robust” public option and try to get it done through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes. As I’ve explained before, whether or not they can do this will ultimately up to the Senate parliamentarian who will determine if the bill is more than incidentally related to the budget. If the parliamentarian determines that it is, Democrats can pass it as part of the budget with 51 votes. If the parliamentarian decides it’s only incidentally related, it would be back to the drawing board.

For those who say that the reconciliation route isn’t sufficiently bipartisan, Rahm Emanuel has a response. Bipartisanship, he says, isn’t about attaining Republican votes for the bill, but about incorporating Republican ideas in the bill.

“That’s a test of bipartisanship — whether you took ideas from both parties,” Emanuel said. “At the end of the day, the test isn’t whether they voted for it,” he said, referring to Republicans. “The test is whether the final product represented some of their ideas. And I think it will.”

House Democrats released their version of health care reform legislation yesterday. The Senate HELP Committee approved their bill today and the Finance Committee will do so soon. Subscribe to our RSS feed for updates as things move forward.

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