Thursday, August 20, 2009

Splitting the Bills? The Democratic Leadership and the White House Staff Really Need a Vacation

The latest word is that the Democratic leadership and the White House see a 60% chance” they will split their health care bill into two parts—one a budget bill that would be eligible for the 51-vote Senate rule and the other the operational non-budget portions that will need 60 votes.

This is all intended to get around the Byrd Rule—which allows the use of reconciliation rules only for budget items. I explained that rule in a post yesterday.

This week just keeps getting more bizarre. After the Secretary of HHS backpedaled on the public option on Sunday and liberals went ballistic on Monday, on Tuesday the White House said they really weren’t changing anything. Things took another big turn late Tuesday night with White House “sources” saying they were going to play hardball and go it alone by ramming Democratic health bills through with 51 Senate votes. But on Wednesday they were saying going it alone was not so much a threat as what would be left to them if the Republicans don’t deal in good faith—that nothing has been decided.

Now, they are 60% sure they are going to spit the bills and ram it through—concluding there is little or no chance for a deal with Republicans.

You know, it’s only Thursday—what are they going to leak tomorrow?

The split the bills idea has to be the most bizarre of all.

It would seem the assumption is that they can load the most controversial parts of their health care bills into one unpopular bill—the President’s health care approval rating is down to 41% per the NBC poll yesterday. Presuming they can get the public option into the budget portion—a big if—they would then get their most committed House and Senate members to pass that. Then they would tell the Blue Dogs and moderate Senate Democrats they should have no hesitation to vote for the operational part two of the bill. If course, without their vote for part two the more controversial part one could not become operational.

I can see the Democratic leadership selling this to doubtful members: “So we’ll do the tough vote and you moderates and Blue Dogs will only have to vote for part two and the fact that it makes the overall bill operational shouldn’t be a concern to you. All those people back at the town halls won’t have a clue you had anything to do with creating a public health plan option.”

The Democratic leadership and the White House staff really need a vacation.

In my mind, this does nothing for the real challenge Democratic leaders and the White House face. That challenge isn’t about legislative strategy in the House or the Senate. The real challenge is the fact that their health care approval rating is in the low 40s.

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