If Republican Scott Brown wins Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat tomorrow, would the House go along with the health care “Plan B” we outlined earlier today? Would the House pass the Senate bill, on a promise from leadership and the White House that their concerns would be addressed in a filibuster-proof bill down the line?
“Certainly the dynamic would change depending on what happens in Massachusetts,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the San Francisco Chronicle today. “Just a question about how we would proceed. But it doesn’t mean we won’t have a health care bill…. Let’s remove all doubt, we will have health care — one way or another.”
House aides say passing the Senate bill would be an extremely hard sell, and may not be possible. But they, and a growing number of members, are insisting that their main focus right now remains on “Plan A”: amending the Senate bill and sending it back for final passage.
The hope, it seems, is that, if Brown wins, Democrats would have enough time to vote down a Republican filibuster in the Senate before Brown gets sworn in.“There will be every effort to try and go ahead with 60 votes,” Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) said on Fox News today. “There is a sitting Senator from Massachusetts. So until the new Senator is sworn in, Massachusetts is represented by a [Democratic] U.S. Senator, and we will move forward if we can to get this done. It was always our goal to move forward in the next couple of weeks in any case.”
Whether Dems can pull through in the 15-or-more days they’ll have before Brown is seated (assuming he wins) is still very much an open question. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “The fact that the CBO takes so much time is really more the issue.”
Aides confirm that the House has already sent CBO significant portions of the final health care bill for scoring, hoping to beat the clock.
So what happens if the window closes before the Senate clears all procedural hurdles? That’s where the House may differ with its counterparts in the Senate and White House. The latter would like to see the House swallow the Senate bill whole, and they seem to be staking out their ground to make sure that happens. If it does, Democrats could tweak the bill using the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to reflect the changes the House wants to see.
House members, by contrast, seem to be suggesting that they’d prefer a complete overhaul of the bill, via the reconciliation process. Call it “Plan C.”
As Schwartz noted, “of course really, we’ve set up the possibility if we needed to to really go with a majority vote, rather than the supermajority of 60 votes.”
And appearing on Bloomberg television this weekend, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said, “Even before Massachusetts and that race was on the radar screen, we prepared for the process of using reconciliation,” to pass health care reform.
Moving a full health care reform bill through the budget reconciliation process would mean a much different legislative package than the House and Senate bills, and would probably mean there’d be no bill for President Obama to sign for quite some time.
But, once again, it seems as if the two chambers are staking out two different endgame positions.
Additional reporting by Christina Bellantoni