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Emerging from a meeting with Pelosi, Rep. Jan Schakowski said she and the House Progressive Caucus could not support the Senate health care bill. However, her comments, as conveyed by Politico's Ben Smith, leave considerable confusion.

"The one thing that feels very certain is that there are not the votes in the House for a plan that involves moving, in whole, on the Senate bill," said Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, emerging from a meeting with Pelosi and her leadership team. "It seems that way from what the speaker said."

Okay, so this indicates House Progressives won't vote for the Senate bill. But what does "in whole" mean? Does that mean they won't for the Senate bill at all, or won't vote for it if that's the entirety of the effort?

The speaker asked liberal members in an afternoon meeting about components of the package that was emerging from bicameral negotiations with the White House.

"We're talking about what are the essential changes that we would want, and then how to do it," Schakowsky said, adding, "What's better about our bill, what are some changes that have already been agreed to."

The assembled progressives highlighted changes to the excise tax, filling in the donut hole, stronger afforability.

Sounds like their salvaging what they can from the cross-chamber negotiations derailed by yesterday's result.

She said they talked about moving a corrections bill that only required 51 votes in the Senate, but said that would not involve passing the Senate bill, too.

Here's the confusing part. What could this possibly mean? A "corrections" bill but no Senate bill?

I wonder whether this could be the strategy David Waldman laid out on the front page this morning.

If House Members are still skittish about voting for the Senate bill straight-up, even after securing a fix through reconciliation, they can use a little procedural trick called a "self-executing rule" (see this CRS report [PDF] for more)-- or at least a self-executing provision in a rule -- to take care of business. At the conclusion of the reconciliation process, when the House and Senate have both passed their bills and have agreed on a conference report settling any differences, the House may opt to include in the rule it adopts to govern debate on that conference report a provision deeming the Senate amendment to H.R. 3590 agreed to by the House. That way, when the House adopts the rule to allow the reconciliation bill conference report to come to the floor, it also agrees to the Senate bill it's amending along the way, just moments before beginning debate on the fix, and without ever having a separate, stand-alone vote on the Senate bill they don't like.

In translation, what this basically would mean would be that in beginning debate on the reconciliation "fix-it" bill, they could give automatic assent to the Senate bill, without having a separate vote.

Alternately, if the Senate bill IS passed by the House, Pelosi, as speaker, has the power to not deliver the legislation to the president, and she can therefore withhold the Senate bill even after passage in the House until the Senate acts on reconciliation.

To be entirely honest, I'm skeptical that this is what Schakowsky was alluding to. I think it's more likely that either Schakowsky's talking points were in flux, the position of the progressives fluid, or the reporter in question simply misunderstanding the implications of her statement.

Still, more tea leaves to read.

All I can say is that Democrats need to take a deep breath and remember why they were elected. And then ALL of them - Blue Dogs, progressives, New Dems, and, yes, the White House, which has given mixed messages about how far it plans to push - need to settle quickly on a strategy - most likely, this two-bill one, and get it done.

Originally posted to liberalpragmatist on Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 02:45 PM PST.

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