If there's a "fierce urgency of now" behind health care reform, the pressure needs not to be on the House, but on the White House and Senate.
Consider this from Josh Marshall.
I'm not certain it's over yet. Pelosi clearly doesn't want it to be over. She may be hoping the president will assert himself more forcefully and try to change the calculus in the House -- though he's shown no signs of being willing to do that. She may also be playing for time, hoping that her members in the House will get a deeper realization of the implications of abject failure (both in policy and political terms) and reconsider, that tempers (which are understandably running very high) will cool. Maybe some will reconsider; maybe she'll get more leverage to get a binding agreement from the senate about a deal to make changes in a separate bill.
What I don't believe is that this is simply a bargaining position, a posture to get the Senate or the White House to absorb some of the pain the House is being asked to swallow. I think what has happened is that the people in the House, collectively, don't have the mettle to make this happen. And we're in a very short window of time when they're able to take the action that kills reform while still believing that this isn't the inevitable result of their action."
Why it's not over yet is because Nancy Pelosi was the first Dem leader out of the gate, before Obama, before Reid, to say "We're moving forward" on reform. And when she says that she doesn't have the votes, it absolutely is not "simply a bargaining position." It's reality. The reality that has been too long ignored--there is simply not a constituency for the Senate bill as is outside of the various groups and individuals the Senate made deals with to get it. Pelosi quite honestly can not get 218 votes, as some of us have been saying for weeks, because there's too much in the Senate bill that are poison pills. No amount of bludgeoning them over this is likely to change that when they've got a very power ally, in the form of a strong labor coalition who will remove their support--both for the bill and quite likely in November--without fixes.
But here's the key point, Pelosi is trying hard to move forward, working with her caucus to find the way, seemingly coalescing in the "fix the bill," Senate bill + reconciliation fixes approach.
On the other hand, we've now got the White House saying slow down.
Asked today if health care was on the back burner, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "The president believes it is the exact right thing to do by giving this some time, by letting the dust settle, if you will, and looking for the best path forward."
He said the administration wanted to give Congress time to figure out their next move. He also noted that President Obama "has a very full plate" with financial reform, the economy, the wars and other matters.
And where's the Senate? Here's Schumer:
But he said that whatever plan is agreed on, Democrats want health care off the table by March.
"I don't thnk we want this to go on for three more months," he said. "You have to make a decision." Schumer said that Democrats are making sure to rush a plan on reform and said that "it will take a few days" for the caucus to come up with plan to pass health care reform without their supermajority.
Reconciliation is one of a few options under discussion, Schumer said. But he said that "concerns about the political climate" make that plan less than appealing to some Democrats. "It's one of the considerations," he said when asked if Democrats worry voters will react badly to a health care bill passed with through reconciliation.
In some ways, Gibbs is right. The only real deadline now for Congress is November. There's time to get it right, but not the desire or the will in Congress to watch this drag on. So what should happen now? With a path clearly gaining traction in the House--with key support from labor--maybe it's finally time for the White House and the Senate to be taking some direction from the House.
Schumer and Reid need to be held responsible for quelling the fears of those Dems who just don't want to act, who think reconciliation is just too scary. What's scarier the prospect of passing nothing at all and seeing the backlash to that. Is the American public going to care how the bill passed if it's finally done, and if it also contains a really popular provision--like a public option?
The White House can help, by finally sending a strong, coherent message to those wavering Senators. Don't stand in the way of reconciliation, and don't stand in the say of the critical insurance reforms that you've already voted on once. Hell, all of the courting of Olympia Snowe which continued this week might actually pay off.
We've still got 58 votes in the Senate. That's still a majority. It's time our "leaders" figured out how to use it.