Though Democrats are prepping a procedural contingency to advance health care reform legislation without any Republican votes, there remains an overwhelming desire among party leaders to pass a bill with 60 votes (most likely 59 Democrats and Olympia Snowe)–but that’s not just because Democrats are squeamish about going it alone, and concerned about the technical complications. Some think there may be an upside to exhausting all options.
“We’ve come this far, so we’re going to try this to the bitter end,” says one Senate Democratic aide.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) will soon unveil a draft of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill and, with the budget reconciliation bill set to move forward in mid-October, there’s a premium on getting Baucus’ plan out of committee swiftly.
Already, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to cancel a week-long October recess if Republicans slow things down in committee and on the Senate floor.
“We won’t miss the window,” the aide said. “Everyone’s cognizant of it.”But though time is of the essence, and some on the left are anxious for Democrats to move forward without Republican support, there could be an undiscussed political upside to doing things this way.
“There’s a strategic and a message value to letting this play out on the floor for the American people to see,” said another Democratic aide. “Especially if this plays out on the floor and Republicans try to kill the bill. [That] would make it easier if we had to come back to a reconciliation.”
“We’re not losing time by having the debate on the floor and letting the American people see: this is what they’re for, this is what they’re against, and then if we have to come back we have to come back,” the aide added.
Some have noted that Democrats regard using the filibuster-proof reconciliation process as a tool of last resort because they want to have political cover for themselves. But interestingly, they also see holding off as an opportunity to put Republicans on the spot. A little disinfecting sunshine ahead of the 2010 elections, maybe?