Will Republicans Make a Credible Threat to Kill Health Reform's Modifications In Reconciliation?


The paradox of choice?

With all the talk about whether Democrats can or should use reconciliation to pass health care, it's worth noting that, in some ways, reconciliation doesn't actually matter: If Nancy Pelosi can somehow wrangle enough votes in the House to pass the Senate bill, then they won't actually need to use reconciliation for the bill to become law. Obama could, and presumably would, simply sign the Senate bill into law, regardless of whether a fix package went through in reconciliation.

Now, House Democrats have expressed repeatedly that they don't like the Senate bill and aren't willing to pass it without revisions. And they've said that, in order to vote for the bill as is, they'd like some sort of signal from the Senate that it will, indeed, pass a set of agreed-upon changes—perhaps a letter signed by 51 Democratic Senators promising to vote for a fix package through reconciliation.

But despite talk about how reconciliation makes Senate passage easier, even with 51 Senate Democrats intent on using reconciliation, it won't be a clear shot: Republicans have the option of using an infinite amendment strategy to delay or perhaps kill the fix package. So presumably what Republicans need to do to stop the bill in the House is to make a credible threat that they will, in fact, do everthing they can to kill the reconciliation fix package, thus making it clear to wavering House Democrats that if they vote for the Senate bill, what they'll get is the Senate bill that they don't like, not a fixed bill.

The problem with this strategy, of course, is that it would put Senate Republicans in the position of voting against a "fix" package to the bill—a fix that, for example, strips out unpopular special deals. That might not look good come campaign season, when Democrats would be able to run on the line that Republican Senator Whazzizname voted to keep special interest deals in the health care bill. Given the difficulty of the vote, it's possible that some Republicans might simply decide that it's better to let the fixes (and thus the rest of the bill) go through and run against health care in November. Making a credible threat to block the fix bill in reconciliation has the best chance of stopping the bill entirely, but it also runs the risk of backfiring.

My understanding is that Senate Republicans are still trying to figure out what they're going to do, and that some of them are only just beginning to understand both the options available and the potential outcomes. With a White House announcement about the strategy to go forward with reform imminent, they'll have to make a choice, and soon.

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  1. Fuck political strategy. Kill this bill by any means necessary. Otherwise, the GOP can go to hell in November–I’ll just vote LP or for myself.

    Have I been clear enough?

    1. Any means?

      1. Any constitutional means, of course.

        1. Of course …

          Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?

          1. Hey, I am not the king of England. Not yet, anyway.

    2. FUCK POLITICS, not Americans.

      1. A fine slogan.

  2. If the strategy of trying killing health reform isn’t itself political suicide for the GOP then this country is more fucked up than I thought.

    I mean nobody actually thinks our healthcare status quo is something worth preserving. Anyone paying attention knows the Republicans simply want to defeat Obama’s domestic agenda for political purposes alone. The teabaggers mindlessly chanting “kill the bill” (including Pro Libertate above) may not be making such calculations consciously, but that’s obviously the only thing this is about.

    What we have is a Republican health bill that’s going to be passed by Democrats. If Dems can’t figure out how to make the narrative that Republicans simply don’t care about the healthcare of the American people, then they deserve to lose. This line of attack even has the virtue of being the truth.

    1. While the Republicans are still pieces of shit, you are wrong.

      I am a lifelong Cubs fan. If I go to a Mets/Rockies game, I don’t give a fuck who wins. I have no dog in that fight.

      NOW. If it’s near the end of the season and my Cubbies are in the wild card chase and Colorado is up two games on me, I will swallow my pride and root for the Mets. Their victory provides me the most tangible benefit.

      It is possible to dislike the proposed bill while simultaneously loathing the status quo.

      For the most part, the Dems and Reps are arguing over a circle. One says it’s a square and the other swears it’s a triangle. They’re both fucked. That doesn’t mean I have to err in favor of the square crowd just because their answer is more geometrically correct.

      1. It is possible to dislike the proposed bill while simultaneously loathing the status quo.

        You’re quite right. But it’s not possible to dislike the bill because it’s too radical. You can legitimately dislike it because it doesn’t contain enough reform, and a lot of that opposition is routinely ignored by the media. But it is essentially a Republican bill. In fact it strongly resembles the alternative to Hillarycare offered by the GOP in the 90s.

        Two central truths remain: the GOP doesn’t care about healthcare reform, and they’re opposing it for political purposes alone.

        1. You could also dislike the bill because healthcare reform is none of their fucking business.

          All the other zillion little places they have stuck their noses into healthcare, I believe are the source of our miserable status quo in the first place. This is the camel we got from letting Congress design the horse of medicine over all these decades.

          But please, continue cheering for the wisdom of central planning.

        2. Tony, why do you continue to fail to understand this simple concept: LIBERTARIANS ARE NOT REPUBLICANS!

          Get that into your little head. I don’t care about the political consequences for either party. I don’t care about fucking over the Democrats. I think that the proposed bill is a bad one which will not solve many problems (if any). Doing something is not always better than doing something, even if the status quo sucks.

          Stop being such a little turd and deal with the fact that people can and do honestly disagree with you on many many issues.

          1. If the status quo is unsustainable, then doing nothing isn’t an option.

            I get it that you’re not Republicans, but it would be less confusing for me if you didn’t constantly talk like you receive Frank Luntz’s emails with your morning coffee.

            1. Tony,

              If your house is on fire and all you have is a bucket of gasoline, do you do something, say, throw the gas on the fire, or do you do nothing?

              1. I’d call the fire department.

                1. So you WOULD do nothing.

            2. Tony, you are such a fuckin idiot. Anytime anybody says anything in opposition to the bill, your response is to start yelling Frank Luntz! Sean Hannity! GOP Talking Points! Yet, you constantly refer to the GOP as obstructionists with no real ideas…..hmmmm, kind of sounds like a Dem talking point to me.

              Especially since the Republicans have presented several alternatives, most specifically Paul Ryan’s plan, which was introduced on the House Floor in May of last year. Yep, no ideas….nothing but obstruction.

              I may not like Ryan’s plan very much, but using the “Obstructionist” talking point makes you nothing but a fuckin hack. Especially since, as always, you offer ZERO documented evidence to bolster your bullshit claim.

              Oh, and yeah, there’s no reason a Libertarian or actual Conservative would oppose a corporatist bill like this. Nope, none at all. They’re all just brainwashed by Frank Luntz.

              So let’s play your stupid little game: Do you get your talking points daily from David Axelrod? Keith Olbermann? Nancy Pelosi?

              To paraphrase what Jimmy Kimmel said to Courtney Love at the Pamela Anderson roast – I really hope you are nothing but a sockpuppet, because if you aren’t, then you really are a moron of epic proportions.

      2. If contanza’s saying that letting this pass would make a lot of angry swing voters break Republican, then I think he’s right.

        But that still leaves the question–why should the Republican leadership want to save the Democrats from that? That’s gotta be Public Opinion Strategy 101…

        If your opposition is working overtime trying to hang itself, why not give them all the rope they want? …especially if you can let ’em do it under the auspices of some arcane procedures, where’s the downside for the GOP?

        Who cares about what’s good for the nation! …certainly not any of these guys–these are the same guys who put on us on the hook for Wall Street and Detroit! They don’t care about us. And in the political calculus, I don’t see a downside for the GOP here anywhere.

    2. So, because your mom has cancer, and you object to giving her 1000x the normal dose of morphine, you object to any and all care?

      That’s not accurate. Yes, Reps are hoing for a fail on this to tarnish Obama, but its not as if the opposite isn’t true on the othersie.

      You can hope it fails to hurt Obama while also recognizing its a flawed and useless at best, harmful at worst, bill.

    3. You want to turn health care over to the same government that killed off ten thousand people in an effort to stop them from drinking?

      1. It’s not the same government.

        1. True. Now it’s worse.

        2. It is always the same government. Always.

    4. Let us not forget the Tuskegee syphilis study.

    5. I’m a teabagger? Not in either sense, thank you very much.

      I’d be fine with some deregulation and true reform–the kind extracting the government from the marketplace–but that’s not on the table, as socialist left and socialist right have taken great pains to ensure.

      1. Pro Libertate…don’t confuse Tony. He still thinks this is firedoglake.com

      2. Because the way to push back on insurance industry abuses is to let them be more free to commit abuses.

        I get it. If only we had libertopia everything would magically work out.

        1. Really, not blaming the government in an already massively regulated industry (actually, industries) is rational how? And rewarding their record of failure isn’t stupid?

          Once the government massively intervenes, blaming the free market–which ain’t calling all the shots anymore–is rather inane.

          1. Casting blame is pointless in itself. I don’t think insurance companies are doing anything wrong. It’s their job to maximize profits.

            The problem is that insurance companies maximizing profits doesn’t necessarily lead to universal adequate healthcare. That goal, to me, is far more important than coddling the interests of a particular industry.

            You are blaming government because it’s what you do. It’s a first principle for you that government causes all problems. That isn’t rational. And what record of failure? Medicare? Medicaid? At the very least those programs are more popular than the insurance industry. Better, they are more efficient deliverers of healthcare.

            I’m not “blaming” the free market, I’m just saying it’s inadequate to the task of delivering universal healthcare.

            1. While you are presuming that universal healthcare is a desirable goal and that everyone else shares that presumption. Given that in the real world universal health care requires that the people who would rationally choose to forego coverage must be forced into accepting some kind of coverage, that is one hell of a preseumption.

    6. I mean nobody actually thinks our healthcare status quo is something worth preserving.

      Unless you think our healthcare system is the worst of all possible worlds – I don’t and I doubt you do – you have to admit that it is possible to pass a bill making healthcare even worse. I think healthcare reform is necessary, but I see this bill making the problem even worse. Hence, opposition.

      Anyone paying attention knows the Republicans simply want to defeat Obama’s domestic agenda for political purposes alone.

      Good God, they’re politicians? Next, you’ll tell me that Democrats don’t actually oppose wars, but like using unpopular ones to demonize Republicans.

      1. It’s only the worst among advanced democratic countries. We could pick any system other than ours and copy it exactly and have a vast improvement by any standard.

        But no, the GOP has decided that even the weak, market-based stopgap measure that is being passed is evil socialism. Even though it’s basically a Republican bill.

        Assuming we agree on what the problems with the current system are, how will this bill make them worse?

        1. It’s only the worst among advanced democratic countries. We could pick any system other than ours and copy it exactly

          Except that we couldn’t. Medicare is similar to many other countries’ standards, and it also spends way more than other countries. We couldn’t copy Canada’s system, either, since we don’t have another country that people can go to when they would want to jump the queue.

          and have a vast improvement by any standard.

          “Any standard” is presuming way too much. It’s untrue by both satisfaction and amount-of-preventative tests and technology used standards, for example, as even people on your side agree.

          In any case, OK, how about we copy the Singapore system?

          1. Fine–they have one of the best in the world, and one more likely to fit with America’s entrenched private provider system. Of course they have mandates, price and supply controls, and subsidies to ensure universal coverage. You okay with that?

    7. Brilliant satire, and the addition of an anti-gay slur in the process was particularly impressive.

  3. Too many asides.

    in fact
    of course
    for example

    Me no likey.

  4. How much rope do the Democrats really need? I guess that’s quite a quandary!

    If they’re out like a light at Midterms anyway, might as well give the folks in the northeast and California some red meat.

    …who cares if that red meat’s made up of back benchers! …other than the back benchers.

    I’d be really tempted to let the Democrats hang themselves here if I were the GOP.

    1. If I understand what you’re saying, it brings up an interesting point I’ve been wondering about. If, as is plain, all the GOP cares about is winning seats in Congress, and if this bill is so poisonously unpopular as they claim, why aren’t they working behind the scenes to ensure its passage?

      Perhaps they’re not convinced of their own talking points that this bill’s reforms are actually unpopular?

      1. Because they have to answer to their constituents there Tony. Everyone hates the bill. If they helped to pass it, they would be equally responsible for it. The only way to hang the Dems with blame is to make sure it passes with no Republican help. And if you don’t believe the bill is poison, explain why it didn’t pass last fall.

        1. Of course they can’t publicly help pass it–they’ve already told their constituents it’s nothing but a parade of horrors. They want and need to continue describing it this way.

          And of course Dems would like at least some GOP support so that they can call it bipartisan for political cover.

          But the GOP line lately has been that passing the bill will be apocalyptic for Democrats in November. They should at least secretly want it to pass if they actually believed this.

          The simplest explanation though is that they’re afraid of it passing, people noticing that granny’s doing just fine, Obama getting his political win, and the GOP ending up looking like the obstructionist douchebag demagogues they are.

          They aren’t chanting to kill the bill because they want to help Dems politically, which, if you listen to the other side of their mouths, is exactly what they claim will happen if that happens.

      2. If the Reps really thought it was popular they would have put up some minor barriers and delays, won some concessions, and then trumpeted the result as “them fixing/saving the horrible bill the Dems suggested” while also being able to crow about stopping the Dem bill.

        That bill would have passed in December. In fact, if your suggestion were true, the Dems would get all the Dems plus at least SOME Reps. That they can’t get any Reps, or all the Dems they need, tells you all there is to know.

        As is, the Dems probably can’t get enough Dems to pass the thing on a majority vote in the House. How is that on the Reps at all?

        1. “As is, the Dems probably can’t get enough Dems to pass the thing on a majority vote in the House. How is that on the Reps at all?”

          The Democrat leadership and the guys running in marginal races are obviously at odds here…

          Pelosi’s sharpened her knife and she’s telling the backbenchers to get ready to go, ’cause God told her they had to go up on the mountain and make a sacrifice…

          …and the backbencher is saying, “So go make a sacrifice–what do you need me for?”

          Anybody who thinks Obamacare is popular in middle America is out of the their freaking mind.

      3. @Tony – That’s an excellent point. If the Democrats want to pass this bill because it will help America, why do they continue to beg for Republican support? On the other hand, why would Republicans even want to look like they’re considering it if, when it passes, it will cause economic chaos.

        It should be clear to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention that both of these political parties are in it simply for their own political gain. Whether or not we have the courage to vote them out of office remains to be seen.

      4. If they are working behind the scenes, they would take great pains not to let that fact be known publicly. So, for all you or I know, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

  5. It’s turtles bags amendments all the way down.

  6. If the Republican leadership thinks that they can roll-back or repeal this mess, then they’re even more delusional than usual. They need to stop the bill, and stop it now.

    1. @Bryan C – If this bill passes, why do you think Republicans would be interested in undoing it? I don’t remember them ever rescinding bad legislation before.

      1. I don’t remember them ever rescinding bad legislation before.

        I can think of at least one– the 55mph national speed limit.

    2. The only reason they wouldn’t want to repeal it is that it will give the Democrats ownership of the mess. Republicans will use it as a club against Democrats for decades.

    3. The only reason they wouldn’t want to repeal it is that it will give the Democrats ownership of the mess. Republicans will use it as a club against Democrats for decades.

  7. Seems to me the threat is credible. The bill is horrifically unpopular as is, and the fixes would probably make it less so. By leaving the mess on the incumbents’ plate, the GOP will focus voter anger on the Dems in November. There’s no *political* reason for the GOP not to block reconciliation.

  8. Every day this doesn’t get passed, increases the probability that Herr Obama will be a one term president.


    Here is a link to almost all the legislation Herr Douchebag has signed. Not exactly resume material. Nope, this douchebag hasn’t done shit, and will continue to not to shit.

    1. Depends entirely on the opponent. House and to some degree Senate seats can be won on issues, but the presidency is a popularity contest for independent voters.

  9. I don’t think the Republicans can afford to go on record as casting a “yea” vote of any kind on any portion of health care reform. At election time, it will simply become “Repub X voted for Obamacare”, and they will be in the deep stuff.

    Perhaps the Dems are thinking that Repubs are only exposed on the right, and if they can delay voting until after the primary season, the Repubs will be more likely to vote for the “fix” amendment. But that pushes the whole health care hatefest well into the campaign season, where Dems will start to fall off the wagon.

    At this point, the first and most important vote is in the House on the Senate bill. The swing House votes are desperately looking for a reason not to go on record in favor of ObamaCare. I think they will succeed.

    1. The simpler argument almost always wins. The republican argument “you voted for this horrible thing” will always beat the Democratic argument “I know I voted for it but you were supposed to help fix it”.

  10. Let this be a lesson to anyone who says that there is no difference between the two major parties.

    1. I’m sorry, what’s the difference between donkey shit and elephant crap again?

      1. Volume.

      2. Trick question

        1. I guess there’s a difference in that they should both be opposed for different reasons, but when I’m getting crapped on by either one, it all smells the same.

          It all smells the same.

      3. Size and Consistency

      4. I’m sorry, what’s the difference between donkey shit and elephant crap again?

        Elephant crap makes better fertilizer.

      5. the height it falls from?

  11. it’s pretty obvious that Nancy Pelosi’s strategy is going to be to lie her ass off to House Democrats, and promise them the moon in a reconcilliation bill, and then renege.

    If she’s really serious about passing health care, that’s why she HAS to do. She has to lie to the House Democrats, and then only pass *some* of the chances they want in reconcilliation.

  12. Indeed, especially since most of us are unlikely to know what any of those “fixes” actually are until after they are enacted. It’s going to be a surprise package of backroom deals.

  13. But this bill and it’s adventures have never been about the Republicans. I’ve always been convinced that about a quarter of the Democratic members thought this was a turd sandwich of a bill and an issue. Obama has been setting deadlines that Congress blows through every couple of weeks. He’s probably on tv right now setting another deadline – “the time for debate is over” or some such bullshit.

    Government healthcare has been the dream of the American Left for 70 years. They’ve tried incrementalism, backroom deals, corporatism and sometimes even honestly laying out their proposals. What do they get for it? They got the government PAYING for half of the healthcare if not even half of the people on it. And last January they had overwelming majorities and popular new President … and still no government healthcare. [the secret reason is that the troglodyte american people, just don’t want to get their healthcare from the government]

    That quarter of Democratic members know that this is looser and know that if they’re thrown out of office over this and have to get lobbying jobs, they’ll have to pay for their own blow jobs and not get free ones from the young interns.

  14. I mean nobody actually thinks our healthcare status quo is something worth preserving.

    Even this is wrong.

    1. No kidding. Most people are reasonably happy with the insurance and the care they get now.

      1. Including the more than 30 million people who don’t have it?

        1. Considering a lot of them have chosen not to have health insurance, yes.

        2. I guess that “most” modifying “people” just whooshed right past your eyeballs without even registering?

    2. Yeah, I think most people are happy with the coverage they get, especially if they’re insured through work.

      I think a lot of people don’t like stuff like waiting an hour to see a doctor once they get an appointment, not being able to get an appointment at their HMO for a week or more, or waiting in the ER with a sick kid.

      And I suspect most of them think that will get worse when the government’s running it.

  15. Actually, the President of the Senate (Choo-Choo Joe) has the authority to rule that the Republicans are just offering amendments to delay the bill, just as he has the authority to rule that the health care reform stuff falls under reconciliation.

    Also, the Dem leadership is far more desperate to get the bill passed than the Republicans are to worry about looking “obstructionist”.

    1. That would be the cherry on the sundae, wouldn’t it – the Vice President making a virtually unprecedented overruling of the parliamentarian to jam this bill through.

      1. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, ? That whenever any Form of [Parliamentary Rules] becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new [Parliamentary Rules], laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

  16. The problem is that insurance companies maximizing profits doesn’t necessarily lead to universal adequate healthcare.

    Health insurance =/= health care

    And 100% of the populace will not voluntarily purchase health insurance, left to their own devices and rationally spending their limited money in ways that maximizes their well being.

    So, if you advocate for 100% health insurance coverage, you’re advocating for government making millions of people worse off.

  17. 95% of our politicians don’t give a flying fuck about our country, at least that’s how it appears to me. All they care about is power. Power, power and power, and they will say and do anything to get it. That said I sincerely hope I am wrong.

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