Update while overlooking McPherson Square…
What is true in DC about healthcare reform in the morning is wrong by nightfall. With that in mind, here is a report as of this minute.
Rumor is, the Senate already has the 60 votes required to pass healthcare reform. It is the same 60 who voted to move the debate forward.
Here is the thinking: At this point, those 60 know they are going to vote in favor of the bill. They’ve come too far and they’ve essentially voted in favor of it once already.
They can spend the next couple of months debating it and amending it – while the GOP, which has no leverage to do anything, along with special interest groups and media, scrutinize and publicly beat the the language of the bill. Or, they can skip all the pain and vote to pass it now. Rumor is, that vote may happen as soon as next Wednesday. Even those who say it won’t be that soon only move the date to December 23. To keep momentum, the Senate will stay in session this weekend – to the dismay of those planning on attending the SEC Championship Game.
In the end, these 60 Senators will overlook the portions of the bill (i.e. public option, abortion funding, employer health plan taxes, etc.) they loudly claimed they’d never accept in favor of having a flawed healthcare reform bill rather than no healthcare reform bill. They’ll make the promise to fix the parts that don’t work later. Of course, who decides what isn’t working? So, in the next week or two, the 60 will hold hands and jump off the cliff together, knowing that there will be 6 or 7 of them who may not be back in their seats after the next election.
Then what happens? The expectation is that there won’t be a formal conference committee to meld the vastly different House and Senate versions. Instead, Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi will make some edits on their own and then send it for a vote. The White House will twist arms in the House to get the votes needed to pass the final version which will most resemble the Senate bill. Those House members who said they voted to pass the House version “because it was an early draft and they wanted to continue the debate” will have lost that reasoning to the citizens of their districts – they voted it through and now will only get to vote once more.
As the Senate allows a few more days of amendments, think about what’s being proposed in two categories.
First, there are the substantive amendments. These are the amendments proposed by Democrats — because they will be seriously considered for inclusion in the final version of the bill. They add (or subtract) substance from the legislation.
Second, there are the message amendments. These are any amendments proposed by Republicans — because they have no chance of being included in the final version (well, unless you’re a certain Senator from Maine). These amendments are raised by Republicans so they can publicize it back in their home state.
Sometimes, an amendment can be both — for instance, the Sen. Mikulski amendment that, in response to the recent report on the topic, adds required insurance coverage for breast screenings to the bill, which is both substantive and message, because it’s the right thing to do.