I read on the Daily Kos rec-list today the diary about how the Speaker's legislative director has now said that passing a reconciliation 'fix' through the Senate first is the only way to move forward on health care reform. And to be sure, Wendell Primus, Speaker Pelosi's legislative director, said exactly that:
"The House would have to take up that first because it would involve revenue changes and then the Senate would pass it and then I think hopefully with the passing of that legislation, the House, only then would take up the Senate bill and pass it."
Speaker Pelosi is creating the best pressure she can on the Senate, it seems to me. However, Mr. Primus also educated us on what, precisely, would be included in such a reconciliation package:
Primus predicted that the reconciliation package of fixes would have to increase the threshold on the Cadillac tax, include more affordability credits, close the donut hole in the Medicare Part D drug benefit, and eliminate the Cornhusker Kickback.
Other Congressional aides agreed with Primus’ assessment and argued that it would be almost impossible to put together a smaller package that achieves any of the Democrats’ objectives because many provisions are interconnected.
So before you go running around jubilant about the Speaker's Legislative Director demanding reconciliation first, do note precisely what he demands in such a reconciliation package. What does he leave out? I will give you a hint:
PUBLIC OPTION (or Medicare buy-in)
This is, of course, not a surprise to anyone who has been honestly and factually following the debate. Speaker Pelosi herself put an end to the speculation about a public option in reconciliation about a week ago. There may be 51 votes in the Senate for the public option, but there aren't 51 votes in the Senate for passing a public option under reconciliation. Also, I will note that the list of fixes that Primus lays out are rather familiar. That is, in fact, the same list that Sen. Tom Harkin, the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, said was negotiated and agreed upon by the White House and the House and Senate Democratic leaderships before Scott Brown gave Republicans their 41st vote.
Harkin said "we had an agreement, with the House, the White House and the Senate. We sent it to [the Congressional Budget Office] to get scored and then Tuesday happened and we didn’t get it back." He said negotiators had an agreement in hand on Friday, Jan. 15.
Harkin made clear that negotiators had reached a final deal on the entire bill, not just the excise plans, which had been reported the previous day, Jan. 14.
Harkin said the deal covered the prescription-drug "donut hole," the level of federal insurance subsidies, national insurance exchanges and federal Medicaid assistance to states.
Indeed, Speaker Pelosi agrees, and her Legislative Director has now reiterated it. Once again, this confirms that the public option will NOT be in reconciliation, and that it's dead for the current debate.
That list of what would be in reconciliation has been the list for a while, even if people encouraging you to join facebook to call are still doling out the idea that the public option is viable in reconciliation (example, and the diary author's other Facebook group, 'PublicOptionNow' it pushing this 'Millioin Calls' deal on its wall).
So if and when you join this group or sign up to make these 'Reconcile First' calls, please be crystal clear that what you are fighting for in this instance is not the public option. The Chief OutrageTM of "forcing people to buy private insurance" (ok it's actually far more nuanced than that, but the people opposing the Senate bill aren't telling you that) will be in the final bill no matter what.
Lastly, the Speaker's aide also admits that passing the reconciliation fix without passing the underlying bill (the Senate bill) first is in fact, in his words, a "trick."
"The trick in all of this is that the President would have to sign the Senate bill first and then the reconciliation bill would be signed second and the parts of the reconciliation bill that trump the relevant portions of the first signed bill."
So to Mr. Primus, I have a question. Why, might I ask, are you playing tricks with the procedure? If the President has to sign the Senate bill first, as you acknowledge, why not pass the Senate bill first? What the hell kind of a game is it to have Congress pass bills in the reverse order that the President has to sign it? That is ridiculous, and it sets a dangerous precedent. What happens if a future president decides to screw with a future Congress and in a future bill of this type, signs the "fix" and then the underlying bill or just flat out vetoes the underlying bill? What happens then? You will have a freaking process nightmare on your hands. I don't think this is good for the institutions of Congress or the Presidency.
There has been some questions about why I am doing this, if I am truly a supporter of the public option. The answer is simple. This isn't about the public option anymore. The public option had become ideological long ago (and had my ideological support), and it, unfortunately is now gone and not coming back. This isn't about the public option. This is about what I feel is a potential for misleading a group of activists to feel like they are making calls for something when they make phone calls to Congress for 'reconciliation first.' I am an activist. I love activism. But when I make calls and say words like 'reconciliation bill' I want to know what exactly is in such a reconciliation bill - and what must be in it to be acceptable to me. That's why I want everyone to know exactly what they are supporting when they call Congress and say 'reconcile first', and it ain't the public option. I want people to know what they are holding the Senate bill hostage to, and it ain't the public option.