Dems Inch Closer To A Deal On Reconcilliation

It’s been almost two months since Sen. Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election nearly derailed health care reform, but soon, Democrats will know if they have what it takes to fully rebound: This morning, House Dems will meet to review and assess the final health care reform package–a combination of the Senate’s bill and a separate reconciliation bill (the details of which remain undisclosed) tweaking several of its key provision.

This step is key. It will largely determine if, how, and when Speaker Nancy Pelosi can muster the votes for the paired package, bringing the year-long fight over health care to a close. The vote will be extremely tight, and though leadership confidently predicts passage, at least one major issue–abortion–will have to be resolved before Pelosi can bring it to the floor.Separately, House principals will have to move the reconciliation bill through the Budget Committee–a process that could take several days–and determine how to conduct the floor vote.

As recently as last week, House Rules Committee chairwoman Louise Slaughter told me she believed Democrats would have to pass the Senate bill first, followed by the smaller reconciliation bill. But leadership is now considering a track that would allow the House to pass both items with a single vote: a so called self-executing rule, which would hold that the Senate bill should be considered passed, if the reconciliation bill passes. The difference sounds technical, but for House Dems desperate not to cast a vote for the unpopular provisions in the Senate bill, the politics are crucial.

If that all sounds complicated, well, it is. But the process here will be instrumental in determining whether House Democrats will be able to take this final jump. And with the White House in a hurry to get the bill signed before Easter, time is of the essence.