Pelosi: Senate Bill Can’t Pass House

Nancy PelosiIt 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.

AP Photo

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    Like I said, “We won!”

    These liberals are the dumbest beanheads in the world.

    It shows how little you need to do to get them to roll over.

    They apparently have a majority of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, but they can’t do ANYTHING.

    This is why they should never be voted for–They is wimpy as hell.

    Unfortunately, the evil ones know this as well, so they will likely pounce while Nancy and Barry is licking they wounds.

    This is why we need to begin impeachment proceedings ASAP. Then we could get Brown or Palin in the oval office to clean up the mess created by Hanoi Nancy and the Obama crowd.

  2. Mark says:

    James, I think you’ve been reading the “ping-pong” idea wrong from the beginning. I never understood it to mean you wouldn’t need 60 again and this article doesn’t say that either.

    Sending bills back and forth is more transparent than a conference, and skipping conference is even more preferable if debatable motions like naming conferees and everything else are filibustered by the GOP.

    “Ping-pong”, as I understood it, simply made it so the Senate only needed 60 once more, rather than another dozen times depending on how ridiculous the GOP wanted to behave.

    Happy to be proved wrong, but I just have never understood it to be what you describe.

  3. Mark says:

    Also, Pelosi’s quote ends with “at this time,” a not inconsequential qualifier.

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    So a giant bill forged in secret with political payoffs which doesn’t address costs and contains a mandate forcing citizens to buy insurance can’t get through Congress. Who would have guessed?

    So how about smaller bills that first address costs and efficiencies? How about a bill allowing interstate purchase of insurance? How about laws allowing more flexible insurance? How about tort reform? There are much better ways to get better health care than what has just been killed. Let’s hope Pelosi et al can figure it out.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Steve,

    All of those requests were in the House Bill except tort reform (which is just a sop to the Medical Associations and not legitimate anyway. Why should we have a protected class who is limited in their liability? It goes against equal protection.)

  6. Mithras says:

    Congratulations to Congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats for ensuring that thousands more Americans every year will suffer and die needlessly due to lack of coverage, and millions more will live in fear of suffering the same fate, in order to uphold the sacred principle that Aetna and Blue Cross can rake in the bucks.

  7. steve says:

    James-You seem to assume at least one Republican will vote for ANY Democratic HCR. Where is your evidence for that supposition? Wouldnt that be bad electoral politics for the Republicans?

    Steve

  8. tom p says:

    YAWN…….

    Meaning only that it is way too soon to game this one.

    tom

  9. mpw280 says:

    How about letting everyone deduct insurance premiums or have everyone pay taxes on their insurance premiums? Lets all play on the same field. The interstate insurance idea should be one of the main flogging points of the republicans, but they refuse to pick up the one gauntlet that they could beat the hell out of the democrats with, why? Those two ideas could easily solve quite a bit of the problems with insurance coverage in the US. They are also only a start, published prices for procedures that walk in, cash buyers could see (that are in the same field as insurance companies pay) is the next one and the list goes on. Why aren’t these the solutions being flogged by the government rather than an everyone gets shit service and huge waits, but government people, plans that noone wants?
    mpw

  10. James,

    I’m with Mark, and would be curious about clarification–my understanding of “ping-pong” (which is usually called “back and forth” in American politic texts and navette (shuttle) in comparative politics) is not as you have described in terms of a means to bypass the 60 vote issue. Perhaps I am missing something?

  11. James, you keep talking about this “more modest” option. What the hell does that mean? How can you be more modest than the current Senate bill? If you drop the mandate, you have to drop the requirement to insure regardless of preexisting conditions because otherwise you get a massive adverse selection problem. If you keep the mandate, but kill the subsidies, you bankrupt the working poor. I guess, you could just offer more subsides and leave it at that, but I can’t imagine that is what you’d like to see.

    What in the world does “more modest” mean in terms of expanding health care coverage?

  12. steve says:

    ” The interstate insurance idea should be one of the main flogging points of the republicans, but they refuse to pick up the one gauntlet that they could beat the hell out of the democrats with, why? ”

    Doing so would mean bypassing individual state laws on insurance. The party that advocates for states rights would have problems here. Besides, it probably will not matter. If it was possible to make more money in another state, another company should have entered that market already.

    You may have noticed that no red state has done anything on health care reform, including the “free market” reforms. It is just not an important issue, except one to be opposed, on the right.

    “How about letting everyone deduct insurance premiums or have everyone pay taxes on their insurance premiums? Lets all play on the same field. ”

    The Senate bill called for taxes on expensive insurance. Wyden-Benett would have taxed it all. Both were rejected by Republicans.

    “They are also only a start, published prices for procedures that walk in, cash buyers could see (that are in the same field as insurance companies pay) is the next one and the list goes on. ”

    That was also included in the Senate bill.

    Steve

  13. Franklin says:

    As far as I’m concerned, if they can get Snowe to vote for it, it’s got to be at least a tiny bit better than the pile of crap it is now.

    So this whole Scott Brown thing was definitely a positive.

  14. kvc says:

    Try not to get such close up pictures, please!

  15. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    There is a protected class, Alex, and they all belong to bar associations. If lawyers had to withstand the scrutiny doctors do, there would be fewer better ones available. If a doc loses a patient and can be found at fault it is possible to recover many times what that person could have reasonably earned in a lifetime. If a lawyer loses a case, it is an oh well. Shakespeare had it right. First thing we need to do.

  16. Alex Knapp says:

    Zels,

    You DO realize that lawyers can and do get sued and punished for malpractice, right?