The Democrats’ "way forward" on health care reform hit a pothole Sunday when the mild mannered Chair of the Budget Committee, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) said on CBS that reconciliation for comprehensive health care reform "will not work." Oops. For starters, Conrad doesn't think insurance market reform, or delivery system reform can be passed using reconciliation.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) told NBC he also wants Medicare out of the mix, arguing entitlements are "too important" to be part of the reconciliation process.
And certainly a bipartisan vote is all but out of the question. Asked if there was anything the president could do to get Republican votes, short of starting over, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told me, "I don't think so…"
Where will it all end? Whatever "it" is may end at the ballot box. On State of the Union, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tossed off any whispers that she could end up losing her House majority. "The Democrats will retain the majority in the House of Representatives... I'm not yielding one grain of sand." She artfully dodged an opportunity to guess how many, if any seats she might lose.
But, on ABC, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is predicting (or is that hoping?) that if the Democrats go the reconciliation route and "jam this through" it would be "a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party."
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), on “Face The Nation” on the reconciliation process
“It will not work because of the Byrd Rule which says anything that doesn't score for budget purposes has to be eliminated. That would eliminate all the delivery system reform, all the insurance market reform, all of those things the experts tell us are really the most important parts of this bill. The only possible role that I can see for reconciliation would be to make modest changes in the major package to improve affordability to deal with what share of Medicaid expansion the federal government pays and those kinds of issues which is the traditional role for reconciliation.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), on “Meet The Press”
“Robert Byrd also in the 70s exempted Social Security, Social Security cannot be considered in reconciliation. We should do the same thing with Medicare. Lindsey Graham and I'll be introducing legislation; entitlements should not be part of a reconciliation process i.e., 51 votes. It's too important. It's one sixth of our Gross National Product.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), on “State of the Union”
CROWLEY: “Is there any way the president can reconfigure this bill that would get your support?
MCCONNELL: “I don't think so, Candy. This is a massive overhaul of one-sixth of the economy. Republicans don't believe half a trillion in Medicare cuts and half trillion dollars in new taxes and possibly higher insurance premiums for all in the insurance market is reform.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), on “State of the Union”
“The Democrats will retain the majority in the House of Representatives. We have a huge move - what, 54, 55 vote majority. We had a swing in the last two elections of a 110 seats. I'm not yielding one grain of sand, we're fighting for every seat.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), on “This Week”
“There's never been anything of this size and this magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way. There are a lot of technical problems with it that we could discuss. It would turn the Senate, it would really be the end of the United States Senate as a protector of minority rights, as a place where you have to get consensus instead of just a partisan majority. And it would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party if they jam this through.”