"Morning Bell: Obamacare’s Kabuki End Game
"The doctors in lab coats surrounding President Barack Obama as he gave his latest health care speech yesterday were not there to give the President a physical; that happened Sunday. No, these doctors were props, dressed to impress for what the White House claims is their “final push” for the President’s government take-over of the health care industry. The President again repeated the same old tired claims he has been making for months: “The proposal I’ve put forward gives Americans more control over their health care,” “our proposal is paid for,” and “my proposal would bring down the cost of health care for millions.” We, and plenty of others, have refuted all these claims before, but this time they are particularly easy to expose as patently false. President Obama gave away the game when he said:
Our cost-cutting measures mirror most of the proposals in the current Senate bill, which reduces most people’s premiums and brings down our deficit by up to $1 trillion over the next two decades. And those aren’t my numbers – they are the savings determined by the CBO, which is the Washington acronym for the nonpartisan, independent referee of Congress.
But there is one huge difference between the Senate bill and what the President kept referring to as my/our proposal: the Senate bill actually exists. For all the talk in Washington about Democrats in the Senate using reconciliation to pass a final version of Obamacare, one key fact has been overlooked: no reconciliation bill exists. Not in the House. Not in the Senate. Nowhere. It simply has not yet been written, and there are plenty of reasons to believe it never will.
The White House is telling the public they expect the House to pass the Senate bill, and then both the House and Senate would pass the yet-to-be-drafted reconciliation, all before Easter recess. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) simply does not have the votes to pass the Senate bill. If she did, it would already be law. To convince her fellow wayward Democrats to vote for the Senate bill, the yet-to-be-drafted reconciliation bill is expected to: 1) scale back the tax on high-end health insurance policies (decreases revenue); 2) close the Medicare D loophole (costs money); 3) boost insurance subsidies (costs money); and 4) increase Medicaid payments (costs a ton of money). Where exactly do House and Senate aides writing this new bill expect to come up with the money to pay for all these new goodies? And they have to find that cash because all reconciliation bills must be certified by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to reduce the deficit by $1 billion over five years. And that CBO score will take at least a week, or possibly two to complete.
So when will the public get to see this reconciliation bill? The Wall Street Journal reports that “Democrats have started writing the formal reconciliation bill” and “intend to send it to the Congressional Budget Office for evaluation by the end of the week.” But The Los Angeles Times reports that: “Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill will not finish writing the reconciliation package until next week at the earliest.” Our advice: don’t hold your breath.
In the meantime Speaker Pelosi is bleeding the votes she needs to first pass the Senate bill, by an up or down vote, in the House. Just 220 members of the House voted for their version of Obamacare in November. Since that time, Reps. Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) have left the House; Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has passed away; and Joseph Cao (R-LA) has said he will vote against the bill. That leaves Pelosi 216 votes, which would be exactly enough to pass the Senate bill. But then there is Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) who will not vote for the Senate bill since it uses taxpayer money to fund abortion. And Stupak says he has a dozen other members that will switch from yes to no with him. And Rep. Michael Acuri (D-NY) now says he is likely to switch his vote from yes to no. And Rep. Shelly Berkley (D-NV), who voted yes the first time, says she is “not inclined to support the Senate” bill. And Rep. Gerry Connolly says he could “absolutely” switch his vote from yes to no. And now Congressional Progressive Caucus Rep. Raúl Grijalva, (D-AZ) says he’s less likely to vote for the final health care reform bill if the reconciliation bill contains the ideas President Obama outlined yesterday.
One House Democrat tells the LA Times why the White House is facing such a tough sell: “It’s a no-win situation for those of us in moderate districts. If you vote no, your base is upset. If you vote yes, everyone else is upset. You almost couldn’t design a legislative vise more damaging to moderate Democrats — or that puts our majority more at risk.” But don’t worry House Democrats, the Senate is going to do everything it can to convince you that you aren’t going to walk the plank alone again. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) tells Politico that Senate Democrats are planning a gesture some time next week that will guarantee to House Democrats the Senate will act: “I don’t know what the gesture will be but it will be a convincing gesture.” Kabuki theater indeed.
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