A week ago, many House Democrats were still reluctant to support health care reform. The Senate bill had too many vulnerabilities, they said, and they didn’t believe the Senate would be able to pass a health care reconciliation bill to fix the problems. Fast forward to today, and the House is going to have to take up the reconciliation bill for a second time, and House leaders are shrugging it off.
What changed? The mood has eased since President Obama signed the bill into law. Basically, last week, passage of the health care bill was complicated by a crisis of trust between the House and the Senate. The House worried that the Senate would fail them again, and, in so doing, send back a reconciliation bill that had been dramatically altered–or worse, not send back a reconciliation bill at all.But this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid presented the House with a letter signed by 51 Senate Democrats assenting to fix the health care bill using reconciliation. And in the past two days, the reconciliation process in the Senate has gone much more smoothly than those suspicious House members ever expected. The changes they have to ratify are tiny–and so they’ll have no problem doing it.
“This is quite benign in terms of any change that could be made to the legislation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at her weekly press conference this morning. “Of all the things that they could send back, this is probably the most benign.”
Last night, the Senate parliamentarian struck down about 16 lines of the 100-plus page reconciliation bill, on the grounds that they violated the rules that govern the process. Those lines made incidental modifications to the bill–they don’t change the cost, or the deficit reduction figures, or anything of major substance the House required.
(Updated: 3:50 p.m.) The Senate this afternoon held a final vote on the reconciliation bill. Now it will go back to the House, and likely pass within hours. What a difference a week makes.
Late update: Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) has identified a couple more incidental provisions in the reconciliation bill–related to its education provisions–that are likely to be stricken. They, too, aren’t likely to imperil re-passage of the legislation through the House.