Not that this should come as a surprise to anybody, but Sen. Tom Harkin has just confirmed to the Politico that Democrats are preparing to ram through the health care bill via reconciliation:
Sen. Tom Harkin told POLITICO that Senate Democratic leaders have decided to go the reconciliation route. The House, he said, will first pass the Senate bill after Senate leaders demonstrate to House leaders that they have the votes to pass reconciliation in the Senate.
Harkin made the comments after a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office including Harkin and Sens. Baucus, Dodd, Durbin, Schumer and Murray.
The difficulty, however, is that it isn’t just a matter of convincing House members that they have the votes — even if there are, theoretically, 51 votes in the Senate for some sort of reconciliation bill, there’s still a high degree of uncertainty over what can actually get passed via reconciliation. Plus, there’s the issue of timing.
Sean Higgins at Investors Business Daily reports:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday that the leadership was mulling first passing a “fix” to the Senate health care bill, then passing the Senate bill it is supposedly fixing. The fix, in Capitol Hill-speak, is being called the “reconciliation bill.”
“We could pass the reconciliation first, have the reconciliation passed by the Senate and then pass the Senate bill,” Hoyer said.
This would reverse the usual order of passing a bill, then passing the additional “fix” bill. Hoyer said that while putting the legislative cart before the horse would be “more complicated,” it could be done.
This maneuver would boost the health care bill’s chances in the House by reassuring nervous lawmakers that they will not be abandoned by their Senate colleagues.
But Hoyer conceded it would be tricky to execute and seriously bend the procedural rules as well.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bart Stupak is still insisting that he won’t vote for the bill, and his problems extend beyond abortion. “We’re not going to walk the plank again just to see the Senate shut us down,” he told the Wall Street Journal. Yet the same article says there are at least six Democrats who voted against the bill the first time around who are now undecided.