Dems Coalescing Around a Plan for Finishing Health CareFebruary 2, 2010 - by Donny Shaw
The news is getting pretty banal for what is probably the most important piece of domestic legislation Congress has taken up in decades, but this is actually quite significant — there seems to be a procedural path forward emerging for the Democrats to finish up health care reform, despite all the setbacks.
1) House passes a package of changes to the Senate’s health care bill (H.R. 3590) using a budget reconciliation bill. The AP is reporting that Rep. Charles Rangel [D, NY] has already started writing the reconciliation bill for this purpose.
2) Senate passes the same package of changes to its health care bill that the House passed (budget reconciliation can’t be filibustered and only requires 50 votes to pass, plus VP Biden casting the tie-breaking vote). At this point, Congress is done with the reconciliation bill, but it is not signed into law yet. Bills have a maximum 10 day waiting period between being finished by Congress and either becoming law or being vetoed.
3) Within 10 days, the House votes to pass the Senate’s health care bill.
4) The President signs the Senate health care bill into law.
5) Finally, the President signs into law the budget reconciliation bill containing the changes to the Senate health care bill.
Voila! This basically gives the Democrats a way to finish up the process of reconciling the differing Senate and House bills that they were working on when Republican Scott Brown won in Massachusetts and changed the Senate landscape.
The biggest question mark in all of this is still the Senate, though. It’s not totally clear at this point whether the Democrats have the 50 votes in the Senate they need to pass a package of changes to their bill. The House is basically looking for three changes — a watering down of the “cadillac” health plan tax, a national exchange instead of 50 state exchanges, and more subsidies for helping low and middle income people buy insurance.
I suspect that over the next week we’ll be hearing a lot more about which senators are willing to accept those changes and pass them through reconciliation, and which are not.
UPDATE:Just to clarify, the key quote from yesterday’s reports is this from Harry Reid:
But Reid acknowledged that passing the reconciliation bill first was under consideration, and the House would move before the Senate.
“That seems like a strong possibility,” Reid said.
“A strong possibility” doesn’t mean a done deal, but it’s definitely better for health care than what Kevin Drum is reporting, that the Senate is still balking at passing the reconciliation fixes first.