This week the President is hosting a bipartisan gab-fest at the White House to try to tease out some Republican votes for health care. It's a total waste of time. If Obama thinks he’s going to get a single Republican vote at this stage of the game, he’s fooling himself (or the American people). Many months ago, you may recall, the White House and Dem leaders in the Senate threatened to pass health care with 51 votes -- using a process called "reconciliation" that allows tax and spending bills to be enacted without filibuster -- unless Republicans came on board. It's time to pull the trigger.
Why haven’t the President and Senate Dems pulled the reconciliation trigger before now? I haven’t spoken directly with the President or with Harry Reid but I've spent the last several weeks sounding out contacts on the Hill and in the White House to find an answer. Here are the theories. None of them justifies waiting any longer.
It's important to note that the filibuster is NOT in the Constitution. The filibuster was created by the forefathers of the Senate in order to make the Senate the deliberative body. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you need 60% of the vote to pass a bill. Furthermore, the filibuster has been used a lot more often over the last few decades.
Reconciliation was a tool created to get budget items passed with only 51 votes. As Democrats like to point out, it was used by President Bush to get his tax cuts through.
There's a very easy way to judge if reconciliation is a good idea. If your bill is popular then you use it. If it isn't, you shouldn't pass it under any circumstances. The mere suggestion of Democrats, liberals and pundits that reconciliation is the way to go is proof positive that they still haven't figured it out. Their brand has been tarnished and that's largely because of this health care reform bill. It's a major reason why a Republican is now Massachusetts' new Senator.
The answer, if you're trying to improve your numbers, is to present something entirely different to the public. Instead, the Democrats are giving serious consideration to jamming a bad bill no one wants down everyone's throats. Worse than that, reconciliation would probably still not pass. First, to use reconciliation, you must adhere to all sorts of confusing standards. No one can really explain any of them. That bill will still need to be merged with the House's bill. The Democrats couldn't figure out how to do that without reconciliation. Are we really to believe they'll figure it out now?
Beyond that, not all Democrats are brain dead. Some realize that this health care bill is killing the party, and more importantly, their own reelection chances. Reconciliation or not, the Democrats still have the same problem. They don't have the votes to pass the bill. Even talking about reconciliation hurts their ratings, and they're doing it with a scheme that has no hope of working.