There Is No Bill But the Senate Bill

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Another day, another poll showing President Barack Obama’s health care plan is wildly unpopular with the American people. Yesterday NBC News/The Wall Street Journal released their latest poll showing that the percentage of Americans who believe President Obama’s health care plan is a bad idea (48%) is at the highest level since they started asking the question last year. Only 36% of Americans are willing to call the plan a “good idea” which is up a whole four points from the time when House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY) wrote this about the Senate health plan:

‘[U]nder the Senate plan, millions of Americans will be forced into private insurance company plans, which will be subsidized by taxpayers. That alternative will do almost nothing to reform health care but will be a windfall for insurance companies. … Supporters of the weak Senate bill say “just pass it — any bill is better than no bill.”‘


‘I strongly disagree — a conference report is unlikely to sufficiently bridge the gap between these two very different bills. It’s time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board. The American people deserve at least that.’

The Senate health bill is so unpopular, even among House Democrats, that the leftist House leadership is desperately trying to trick the American people into believing that the House can pass the Senate bill without voting on it. Hence the Slaughter Rule which would deem the Senate bill passed at the same time the House would approve a new reconciliation bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was crystal clear on her motives this week telling a group of leftist bloggers: “It’s more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know. But I like it because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill.”

There is one increasingly glaring problem with Pelosi’s pass-the-bill-without-voting plan: it is proving impossible to draft that reconciliation bill. The Democrats first promised to unveil their new bill last Wednesday. Then Thursday. Then Friday. Then Monday. Then last night. As of this morning, still nothing. Democrats say they are waiting for a score from the Congressional Budget Office before they release their bill, but there is nothing stopping them from releasing whatever text they have now and then publicizing the CBO score when it comes back. But they are not choosing that open and transparent path.

As we reported last week, getting a CBO score consistent with reconciliation is going to be very difficult. According to House rules, a reconciliation measure must reduce the deficit by at least $2 billion over five years compared to existing law. In this case, however, “existing law” would be the yet-to-be-passed Senate bill. And all of the changes Democrats want to make to the Senate bill (scaling back the tax on high-end health insurance policies; closing the Medicare D loophole; boosting insurance subsidies; increasing Medicaid payments; and expanding the Cornhusker Kickback to all) either increase spending or decrease revenue. Which means the Democrats have to identify new revenues to make the CBO score work. And as Congressional Quarterly reported yesterday, Democrats have not yet identified the right pay-fors to game the CBO right. That is why House Leadership has not unveiled their new bill yet: they can’t figure out how to pay for it.

Not that it really matters if they ever do. The reconciliation bill is never going to become law. The Senate will never pass it. They have no reason to. The Senate likes the existing Senate bill. That’s why it’s called “the Senate bill” … they are the ones who passed it. The White House also likes the Senate bill. As soon as the House passes it, President Obama will sign it and then leave for Asia. That’s it. Obamacare will be, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs promised last Sunday, “the law of the land.” After the Senate bill is law, what could possibly motivate the White House, let alone the Senate, to ever pick up the yet-to-be-written House reconciliation bill?

This is why the White House political machine is pulling out all the stops to get the House to pass the toxic Senate bill. Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile is actively encouraging primary challenges to Democrats who vote against the Senate bill. One House Democrat aide tells Politico: “We’re having donors, even donors outside of our district, that are being called and asked to urge support.” For her part Speaker Pelosi is relishing the bare knuckle fight telling reporters yesterday: “I never stop whipping. There’s no beginning, there’s no middle, and there’s no end.” Let’s just hope her members remember which bill she’s really whipping them on.


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