Monday, March 15, 2010

Can Pelosi Keep her Perfect Record?

Believe it or not, Nancy Pelosi has never lost a vote on a piece of legislation that she has brought to the floor, as Speaker of the House. This week will be a testament of her hard work whipping the vote count, and possibly her fortitude to call a vote without certainty of victory.

As far as I can see she has never called for a vote without that certainty, and I am not sure where she stands now in terms of votes, but she is acting quite bullish on the prospects of passing health reform. Something to look for would be a postponement of the vote later this week, signaling trouble in paradise, or will she let the chips fall where they may? Something tells me she will not put it to a vote with only hopes of passage.

Ezra Klien explains the road to passage here. This new strategy may make it a little easier for some representatives to vote yes, because in essence they will be voting on the fixes to the Senate bill, with the Senate bill passing along with those fixes, giving them political cover in the upcoming election cycle.

He writes.

Here's how that will work: Rather than passing the Senate bill and then passing the fixes, the House will pass the fixes under a rule that says the House "deems" the Senate bill passed after the House passes the fixes.

The virtue of this, for Pelosi's members, is that they don't actually vote on the Senate bill. They only vote on the reconciliation package. But their vote on the reconciliation package functions as a vote on the Senate bill. The difference is semantic, but the bottom line is this: When the House votes on the reconciliation fixes, the Senate bill is passed, even if the Senate hasn't voted on the reconciliation fixes, and even though the House never specifically voted on the Senate bill.

Isn't Politics wonderful?

Basically this means Pelosi doesn't have enough votes to pass the Senate bill as is, partly because the House doesn't trust the Senate to do the correct fixes, and partly because if members vote for a bill with things like the Cornhusker Kickback, they will be vulnerable in the next election. So they will attach the reconciliation fixes even though they can't be enacted until the Senate bill is Law.


Klien concludes.

But the question remains: Will the bill pass? Pelosi seems confident. "I have no intention of not passing this bill," she said. Her political argument was a lot clearer than her procedural preference. Time, she argued, has been the Democrats' worst enemy. "Every interest group that doesn't want this bill, including the Republicans, benefits from continued delay." The absence of a single bill that's not changing or being merged or being amended has meant that Democrats can't explain what's actually in the bill with any confidence or clarity.

That will end in a matter of days. "The bill is locked down," Pelosi says. "We're just waiting for the Congressional Budget Office." When the bill emerges, Democrats will be able to say "definitively" what is in it. And then, Pelosi believes, her caucus will see that this is "the most important bill most of us will ever pass,"

Like I said, Pelosi sounds bullish. Maybe this will be the week for Health Reform.

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