A lot of people seem to think that prospects have improved for the White House’s vision of health care reform. Those people must not be reading the same things I am reading.
For one thing, Talking Points Memo–not exactly a right-wing rag–is telling us that according to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, health care reform will not happen unless the House passes the Senate’s health care bill first. That led to the following exchange between Brian Beutler, the author of the Talking Points Memo piece, and Conrad:
I pointed out that House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly insisted they won’t take a flier on a reconciliation package–that they will only pass the Senate bill after the smaller side-car reconciliation bill has been all wrapped up.
“Fine, then it’s dead,” Conrad said.
Conrad added that he wouldn’t personally make any promises or symbolic gestures to House members to assure them that the Senate can or will take any action in a reconciliation bill to address House concerns.
“I don’t sign any blank check,” Conrad said.
To be sure, other Senators are more optimistic, but when the Senate Budget Committee Chairman is that emphatic, it may serve as a sign that the legislative effort behind health care reform is now on its last legs. News from the House is no less promising for the health care reform effort:
There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday.
Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion rights Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber’s legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill.
The Michigan Democrat has voiced unhappiness with the president’s plan because it upholds the Senate’s abortion language, which he says is too loose and could allow federal dollars to pay for abortion procedures.
But Stupak said that the group of 15-20 Democrats oppose it not just because of the abortion provisions.
Asked on Fox News if he thinks the president’s fixes will pass the House, Stupak said “Despite the abortion language, no, there are other problems with this bill…[I have spoken to] probably about 15 or 20 of them in the last 24 hours they’ve said there are other problems with this bill.”
Sixty votes will be needed to cut off debate in the Senate, where Democrats now control 59 seats. The option of using a rule that requires only 51 votes for passage has a highly uncertain future, since it would involve complex parliamentary maneuvering.
More vexing to Democratic moderates, who’ve long been concerned about the exploding federal debt, was Obama’s cost projection.
“I haven’t seen a good cost estimate,” Nelson said, “and anytime you don’t have that you have to be concerned.”
It ought to be noted that in counting up the votes, Ruth Marcus’s math is about as unforgiving as any of the other calculations out there. People who think that reconciliation can be used to push health care reform through ought to read Marcus’s column, which is like a bucket of cold water to the face.
New Yorkers are likely pleased that the current version of health care reform may not be going anywhere:
President Obama’s new plan to pay for health care reform by taxing investment income would force New Yorkers to pay an additional $4.8 billion a year — the biggest hike in state history, an estimate shows.
The tax would hit interest income, dividends, annuities and other investment gains of wealthy earners, and put the money into Medicare trust funds.
It is one of the main provisions to pay for elements of Obama’s plan, which covers 31 million new people through subsidies for individuals and businesses, expanding Medicaid and other means.
UPDATE: An excellent analysis of reconciliation–and its inapplicability–from Jay Cost.