Usually when the House and Senate go to conference, the House loses. The filibuster increases the Senate's power over the House, and the situation now is exacerbated by the Democrats' possession of a 60-vote majority while the Republicans stand in nearly united opposition. For practical purposes, the Democrats need every one of their 60 senators to vote for cloture on every controversial bill, but the House can lose 38 Democrats and still pass a bill.
Put differently, 39 Democratic House members have to stand together to oppose the power of any one Democratic senator threatening a filibuster. This is a formula for power accruing to the Senate - and we wonder why they won't get rid of the filibuster. :)
For this reason, I've agreed with those who have argued that the version of health care that passes the Senate will probably be close to the final version. Now I hope I was underestimating Nancy Pelosi, thanks to an article I saw today.
The piece that changed my perspective is by Brian Beutler at TPMDC. It's not a perfect piece - it's unsourced, for starters. However, Beutler argues that Pelosi is working hard to produce health care reform that covers more people for less money than the Senate's version.
Got that? More people, less money. Those of us who have followed the health care debate for months know that a public option can do this if the government sets it up properly. Now it looks like Pelosi has the guts to create a showdown with an actual bill that is a better option for America.
The ideal scenario is a House bill that's cheaper in absolute terms than the final Senate bill, without gutting subsidies. But at the very least the House bill will cover more people than the Senate bill, at a comparable price, providing the government more bang for its health care buck.
Apparently Pelosi is continuing to work with the CBO to bring down the cost of the bill, and she's working with her members to secure their votes.
So we will have House and Senate bills, fully scored and on record, that offer two choices. We can pay more for less, or we can pay less for more. If this article is correct, I have to say that I think Pelosi deserves a lot of credit for setting up a scenario where the House can win in conference.
One final note: We keep hearing that there are 52 senators who will vote for a public option, and about 5 who will definitely vote against. We know who the problems are:
If you're going to complain about Reid, at least complain as well about the senators he's having trouble keeping in line. We need every one of these cloture votes.
And give a round to Nancy Pelosi.