The new Health Care Reform landscape without a super majority
The election of Scott Brown to the US Senate will have a profound impact on the White House strategy to move health care reform through Congress. But while many in the press and infact the halls of Congress are declaring Health Care Reform DOA, insiders are providing glimpses of how President Obama plans to move forward given the new landscape. The White House and leadership have determined that passing nothing would be a worse political outcome than using a series of complex maneuvers to pass something. Here are the possible options.
1. Seek passage to a negotiated bill prior to seating Scott Brown – This one died Tuesday night when Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) called for a suspension of any more votes on healthcare until Brown is seated. This virtually eliminates the option to continue making changes to the Christmas Eve Senate Bill to garner consensus between the House and Senate.
2. The House could pass the Senate version as is – If the House could swallow hard and garner 218 votes on the Senate Christmas Eve Bill, it would not need to go back through the Senate for a final vote. Word out of the White House this morning (Wednesday) is that the President plans to go to the House leadership, ask them to pass the Senate bill immediately and promise to fix the issues later under reconciliation. Reconciliation only requires 51 votes in the Senate. This will be very difficult given the uneasiness of the House members given what took place in Massachusetts, never mind the abortion wording in the Senate bill that is far weaker than the House approved Stupak amendment. Although this appears to be the leaderships preferred method, collecting 218 votes on a trillion bill with a promise to fix the issues later, may prove an insurmountable task.
3. Focus on insurance company reforms and some Medicare reform in order to pass “a reform bill” – This approach would include breaking the current reform bill in to pieces and breaking off the low hanging fruit to gain bipartisan consensus.
4. Finding a Republican Senator to be the 60th vote. Olympia Snowe of Maine would be the obvious option here, but she pulled back significantly in the end of 2009 and the sentiment of the Northeast voters may have cut off that option of bipartisan support.
(Check out William Gallagher Associates’ This Week in Health Care Reform series for the ongoing summary of all the major developments in national the debate on health care reform.)