Pelosi: Senate Bill Can’t Pass House
It appears that the last remaining chance to pass healthcare reform without Republican votes is dead, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitting she couldn’t get the bill passed by the Senate if she wanted to.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the Senate will have to amend its version of a health-care reform bill before Democrats in her chamber would be willing to vote for it.
“I don’t think it’s possible to pass the Senate bill in the House,” Pelosi told reporters after a morning meeting with her caucus. “I don’t see the votes for it at this time.”
Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been struggling for days to sell the Senate legislation to reluctant Democrats in order to get a health-care bill to the president’s desk quickly. But House liberals strongly dislike the Senate version, while moderate Democrats in both the House and Senate have raised doubts about forging ahead with the ambitious legislation without bipartisan support.
The only way to keep the Senate bill alive, Pelosi said, would be for senators to initiate a package of fixes that would address House concerns about the bill. In particular, Pelosi described her members as vehemently opposed to a provision that benefits only Nebraska’s Medicaid system. Also problematic are the level of federal subsidies the Senate would offer to uninsured individuals and its new excise tax on high-value policies, which could hit union households.
“There are certain things the members simply cannot support,” Pelosi said.
And that, it seems, is that.
Simply passing the Senate version outright would have been unusual but it’s a clean, legitimate tactic. The so-called “ping-pong” option, which would have amended the bill without conference committee and then been rammed through the Senate as if it were not a new bill — and thus not subject to filibuster* — wouldn’t have been. But, while there was apparently an appetite for the latter option as recently as ten days ago, the election of Scott Brown and the subsequent reassessment by Democrats of the political landscape has killed it.
So, if there’s going to be a health care bill in this Congress — and I believe there will — it’s going to have to be considerably more modest than either the House or Senate versions.
*UPDATE: I appear to be mistaken on this point, having gotten the impression from the blogospheric coverage from the center-left that the major advantage of bypassing Conference was that the amended bills wouldn’t need 60 votes. If the amendments and final passage are indeed subject to filibuster, then there’s no obvious problem with ping-pong.
While American politics was one of my doctoral minor fields, the arcana of the legislative process was never something I spent much time on. Further, this particular parliamentary maneuver has become much more prevalent in the years since my coursework and comprehensive exams (way back in 1993), so it was quite likely not even covered in the course materials of the time.