Senate Democrats are going to need help from Republicans to get President Obama's ambitious plan to reinvent the health care system over the goal line, a top lawmaker acknowledged on Sunday.
"Look, there are not the votes for Democrats to do this just on our side of the aisle," said Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the powerful budget committee.
Even though the Democrats enjoy a majority in the Senate, some are skittish about the financial or political costs of the proposals.
And Republicans said they will continue their opposition to a plan they claim is simply a government takeover of private decisions.
It's important to put this into context. Social Security passed with nearly unanimous Republican support. Medicare passed with about half of the Republican voting with most Democrats. Sweeping health care reform would be legislation on the magnitude of those two. Democrats would be taking an enormous political risk if they passed this without significant Republicans on board.
At the same time, Conrad isn't merely saying that Democrats don't want to pass health care reform without the Republicans but he's saying he doesn't have the votes in the Democratic caucus. Democrats, of course, have 60 votes in the Senate. That means several Democrats are refusing to get on board.
This has two significant consequences. First, it means that significant numbers of Democrats are aware of the historical context I just laid out. Significant numbers of Democrats are unwilling to put their political hides behind without some Republican cover. Second, this is yet more evidence that health care reform, in its current form, is dead.
Imagine you're a Republican and you just heard what Conrad said. You now know that if your caucus unites against the current plan IT WON'T PASS. What exactly are you going to do if you're Mitch McConnell? In fact, that's exactly where the Republican caucus is at right now.
At this point, speaking about the current health care reform is elementary. We will all do it. I will do it. Make no mistake however, we are all debating a piece of legislation that won't pass. That doesn't mean sweeping health care reform won't pass, but it won't pass in any form near where it is now. Enough Democrats aren't willing to risk their political future on the current legislation. Republicans are NOT going to suddenly get on board. As such, we have put yet another nail in the coffin of the current health care reform bill.