For Nancy Pelosi, There Is No Such Thing As Bad News
Non-stop bad news won't stop Nancy Pelosi! Here's an overview of the last day or so of developments in her never-ending quest to drum up enough votes to pass a health reform bill in the House.
- Multiple reports indicate that the Senate parliamentarian confirmed that the Senate cannot vote on a reconciliation "fix" bill until the House actually passes the Senate bill. This means that Democratic members in the House will probably be stuck voting for a bill they very much do not like in the trust that the Senate will keep its promise to amend the bill in reconciliation. But it's not clear that the Senate is actually worth trusting.
- House leadership finally came to the realization that they cannot, in fact, use the reconciliation fixer bill to adjust the abortion wording in a way that will satisfy Rep. Bart Stupak and the dozen or so other pro-life Democrats who are opposed to the Senate bill's abortion language. Negotiations with Stupak may continue in some form, but without the option of amending the Senate bill's abortion language, it's tough to see what sort of accord they might reach.
- That's especially true given yesterday's report indicating that at least seven of Stupak's faction have confirmed they will not vote for a reform bill without a change in the abortion language.
- Another single-issue conflict with a different House faction also reared its head: The Hispanic Caucus is now publicly threatening to torpedo reform because of the Senate bill's ultra-restrictive language prohibiting illegal immigrants from buying health insurance through the state-run insurances exchanges that would be set up. At least one high-profile former yes vote, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, has said that he'll switch his vote to no if the immigrant restrictions aren't changed. (For more detail on this conflict, see the Reason Foundation's Shikha Dalmia.)
- Meanwhile, just days after White House press secretary Robert Gibbs urged Congress to pass the bill by March 18, the date on which President Obama was scheduled to leave the country for southeast Asia, the president announced that he would delay leaving for his trip in order to keep pressing for reform—an all-but explicit admission that the votes to proceed don't yet exist, and that the administration's deadline will be missed.
- At the same time, it's not clear that Obama's presence will actually be effective in moving votes. As Rep. Lynn Woolsey, the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, reportedly told MSNBC: "I think the entire debate that's been going on—For what, a year or so?—has reached a point where we're glad to hear the president speak out, and say what's on his mind and what he wants us to do, and get the country revved up…But I don't think it's going to change a lot of minds."
To sum up: A procedural barrier was confirmed, an old issue-based conflict proved effectively unsolvable, another issue-based conflict flared up, and the president all but admitted that 1) his timeline was (yet again) unrealistic and 2) the votes to pass the bill don't yet exist.
Pelosi response? According to The Daily Caller's Jon Ward, the day was "another step taking us closer to voting."
Granted, what kind of vote is less certain as Pelosi is now floating the almost-too-ridiculous-to-print possibility of a three bill strategy—passing the Senate bill as is, then passing the reconciliation bill to amend it, and following up at some later date by passing additional yet-to-be-determined changes—and the House rules committee is preparing a procedural option that would allow House Democrats to pass the Senate bill without actually ever voting for it.
See? Everything's going great!