Just observing the mainstream media, one would think that the health care bill was on the verge of becoming law. Just a few more back room deals to cut, a few more arms to twist, and Uncle Sam is in charge of your medical life. But I was talking to a friend yesterday, and he observed that the endless whip counts we see of Democrat votes for the health care seem to put them quite far from being able to pass anything. He postulated that perhaps the Democrats were making bold statements about passing the bill in order to demoralize opposition.
That could be, though I don’t want to underestimate Nancy Pelosi’s arm-twisting prowess. But adding another layer of doubt to the Democrats’ ability to make this abomination law is Senator Kent Conrad, who points out that while everyone obsesses over who is voting which way in the House, the Senate hasn’t even decided if it can pass the changes the House is making through reconciliation.
Conrad addressed a meeting of Senate Democrats to explain the reconciliation process to them. On his way out, I and several other reporters caught up with him. I asked whether the package being assembled by House and Senate Democrats will survive the Byrd rule, which requires a reconciliation bill to amend tax or entitlement law, without increasing the deficit.
“We haven’t finished the process of going through things that are Byrd-able,” Conrad said.
“Is it a close call on some of them?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” Conrad said.
Democrats and Republicans, he noted, will have to go over the package with the Senate parliamentarian, and make their case as to whether various measures pass the Byrd rule’s stiff test.
So what happens if House changes to the Senate bill aren’t “Byrd-able?”
The Senate either has to pass them through a non-reconciliation vote requiring 60 for approval or the bill is dead.
Killing this travesty in the House is the best option, but the Democrats still have a lot of hurdles in front of them.