The House leadership's decision to forgo using the Slaughter rule signals that they believe they now have the votes needed to pass the Senate bill. It also suggests that the political firestorm engineered by Republicans about the use of what had been run-of-the-mill procedural techniques had made that option even less appealing than a straight up or down vote on the Senate bill, which so many House members find distasteful.
To help ease the concerns of House members about whether the Senate would follow through with subsequent amendments to the bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on the House side of the Capitol this afternoon, Hoyer told reporters. "He met with Speaker Pelosi and I ... and we have seen a letter he has signed by more than 50 members of the United States Senate." That letter apparently indicates the willingness of a majority of senators, all Democrats, to amend the Senate bill through the reconciliation process. The letter is expected to be released shortly, after the Democratic caucus meeting currently underway, where President Obama is making his final pitch to the Democrats in person.
The Democrats' decision undercuts the Republican's major rhetorical argument of the last two weeks, that Democrats were going to enact major health care reform without actually voting on it, which wasn't accurate, but nonetheless had seemed to resonate as a political attack, causing even some Democrats to disparage their own party's strategy.
In his comments this afternoon Majority Leader Hoyer laid out the sequence of events expected to take place Sunday in the House leading up to a final vote in that chamber on health care reform. The vote on the "fix" to the Senate bill will come first, Hoyer says, after two hours of debate. Once the "fix" passes, by rule, the Senate bill will be immediately voted on by the House, with no additional debate, Hoyer announced.
With the procedure hurdles now cleared, all indications are that House is on track to pass the historic health reform package Sunday afternoon or evening.