Meetings between House and Senate Democratic leaders and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lasted on into Tuesday evening and were aimed at crafting a series of legislative maneuvers that would result in the passage of the president’s healthcare nationalization plan by late next week.
According to multiple congressional sources on both sides of the Hill, here’s what they were talking about.
Under Speaker Pelosi’s latest master plan, the House would vote on a bill that is enormously complicated and in at least two parts.
First, it would contain the Senate-passed healthcare bill, with the Cornhusker Kickback, the Second Louisiana Purchase and every other bribe that propelled it through the Senate.
Second, it would contain a “reconciliation” bill that would make both policy amendments and purported budget fixes, making the bill palatable to even staunch abortion opponents such as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) who promised to lead a group of a dozen abortion opponents in voting against the bill if his concerns weren’t satisfied.
Third — and this is where it gets into the “you gotta be kidding” range — it would make the passage of the first item, the Senate bill, contingent on the Senate passing the second reconciliation part. Kinda, sort of. And that would be based on a letter to be obtained by Pelosi with the signatures of at least 51 Senators or used car salesmen.
The “trust us” letter will undoubtedly be delivered with a smile.
One substantive requirement may preclude Pelosi’s ability to pull this dingy rabbit out of her hat. Reconciliation can only be used after the Congressional Budget Office “scores” — i.e., determines the budgetary impact — of the reconciliation bill. But that likely cannot be done in time for a House vote next week.
A clearer — and much larger — obstacle to this legislative Kabuki dance is the impending ruling by Senate parliamentarians on whether reconciliation can be used on the healthcare legislation before it is enacted.
Both leaders of the Senate Budget Committee, Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Ranking Republican Judd Gregg (R-NH) believe that reconciliation cannot be used on a bill: it can only be invoked on an existing law.
The Senate parliamentarian may rule on this issue at any time, even today. If he says Conrad and Gregg are right, Pelosi’s ploy crashes and burns on the runway. Stay tuned.
Sen. John Kyl (R-Az) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va) the Senate and House Republican Whips issued a memo on this madness.
The Kyl-Cantor memo is directed more at Democrats than Republicans. It reminds them that “House Democrats must pass the Senate’s health care overhaul before the Senate will even consider “fixing it.” And while it seems like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to take up the reconciliation package, it is far from certain that he can get it through the Senate without any changes whatsoever.” (Emphasis in original). (You can read the whole memo here).
It points out that the Senate bill — which House Dems are being told they have to vote for — contains:
• Increased health spending (bending the cost curve up, not down)
• Nearly $500 billion in Medicare cuts;
• Over $500 billion in tax increases;
• Health insurance premium hikes;
• $1 trillion bill that relies on double-counting and gimmicks
• Cornhusker kickback
• Second Louisiana Purchase;
• Carve-outs for Florida seniors only;
• Tax on health care plans which will lead to increased healthcare costs for consumers;
• Targeted tax on small construction firms suffering from record employment losses.
It’s time for us all to make the calls to our Congressman and Senators again.
And you should start with the 21 House Democrats who voted “yes” on healthcare and who likely are on the fence:
Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY)
Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR)
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY)
Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)
Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA)
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)
Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH)
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN)
Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH)
Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY)
Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ)
Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY)
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND)
Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Rep. Zach Space (D-OH)
Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)
Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-OH)
Get dialing. It is up to us to create the outcome. Tell them we won’t forget their vote come November.