We are clearly, finally in the health care reform bill end game. And we’ve got our reporting team fanned out across the scene, literally and figuratively, reporting out various aspects of the story for you. But there are a couple aspects of the story that seems most key to me now and which I want to flag your attention to.First, everybody is on notice that the House is not going to be able to make any major changes to the senate bill. Nelson and Lieberman hold an effective veto on anything coming out of the House. By and large, everyone seems to get that. But there’s a broader fissure that needs to be addressed between the two chambers and that’s in many ways actually a proxy for the deeper ideological fracture within the Democratic party. Since the House is being forced to basically give way entirely to the senate, they need at least a fig leaf, something to preserve institutional and intra-party self-respect. Christina Bellantoni’s report this from the House side suggests the House Dems plan on grousing a lot on TV with the knowledge they’ll have to give way in the end. But this strikes me as a key question. Is that really going to be enough?
Again, I’m not talking about a serious litigating of the bill. But I think something’s going to be required to real get everyone on board with all of this. And I’m not sure we’ve yet seen what it is.
Next, opinions about President Obama. Sen. Feingold fairly publicly called the president out for helping kill the public option by not lobbying for it. Sen. Webb said something fairly similar. But Feingold is often and outlier in such things and Webb’s comment didn’t get much attention. That’s why it caught my attention when Sen. Harkin seemed to rise to the bait from Joe Lieberman, when the Connecticut senator announced that the White House hadn’t lobbied him on the Public Option after all. Now, Harkin got asked about this on TV yesterday. And he could have just played it off. But he didn’t. He expressed what seemed to be genuine surprise and was pretty clear about it. That’s why I had Brian Beutler follow up with Harkin this morning. He was clear to say that the White House hadn’t deceived him or other senators. But he was nonetheless surprised.
This is another issue I’m watching. I think Congressional Dems attitude toward Obama is sort of on a knife’s edge at the moment, especially in the senate. Does this disappointment and upset coalesce and become more public? Or does a mix of excitement, relief or mere exhaustion wash it away and get replaced by a sense that as ugly as it all may have been Obama just passed the first major piece of progressive legislation in more than 40 years?
We pretty much know the big picture. In mid-late January the president signs a bill that looks pretty much like the bill that just came out of the senate, with some minor changes on the margin. How these questions come out is less clear to me.