A flurry of articles on health care reform battle

The articles we’ve studied this week have been breaking almost hourly and are often conflicting. It’s been a little difficult, even for expert politicos, to decipher just exactly what is taking place in the House of Representatives. These news items, in chronological order, are the latest from our most trusted sources so you can read for yourself.

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Stupak ‘Remains Optimistic’ He Can Work Out Abortion-Funding Language to Save Health Care Bill

by Matt Cover
March 10, 2010

Rep. Bart Stupak, a pro-life Democrat from Michigan, “remains optimistic” that he can work out language with House Democratic leaders on federal funding of abortion, the main sticking point in getting a health care bill to President Obama’s desk.

Stupak said on Tuesday he had “meaningful discussions” with two leading House Democrats — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — and more are planned for later in the week.

But Stupak’s press secretary Michelle Begnoche told CNSNews.com that no deal has been reached. “Congressman Stupak has not reached an agreement on abortion funding in the health care legislation,” she said.

The article continues at CNSNews.com

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Democrats Prepare “Slaughter Solution” to Ram Unpopular Health Care Takeover Through Congress Without a Vote

by Dave Schnittger
GOP Leader Blog

The twisted scheme by which Democratic leaders plan to bend the rules to ram President Obama’s massive health care legislation through Congress now has a name: the Slaughter Solution.

The Slaughter Solution is a plan by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Democratic chair of the powerful House Rules Committee and a key ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to get the health care legislation through the House without an actual vote on the Senate-passed health care bill. You see, Democratic leaders currently lack the votes needed to pass the Senate health care bill through the House. Under Slaughter’s scheme, Democratic leaders will overcome this problem by simply “deeming” the Senate bill passed in the House – without an actual vote by members of the House.

An article in this morning’s edition of National Journal’s CongressDaily breaks the story, starting with the headline: “SLAUGHTER PREPS RULE TO AVOID DIRECT VOTE ON SENATE BILL.” [Excerpts are at the link.]

Continues at Congressman Boehner’s site.

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Can Nancy Pelosi Get the Votes?
The Senate bill’s abortion language is not the House Speaker’s only problem.

by Michael Barone
The Wall Street Journal

Are there enough votes in the House to pass the Senate’s health-care bill? As of today, it’s clear there aren’t. House Democratic leaders have brushed aside White House calls to bring the bill forward by March 18, when President Barack Obama heads to Asia. Nevertheless, analysts close to the Democratic leadership tell me they’re confident the leadership will find some way to squeeze out the 216 votes needed for a majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it’s hard to see how she’ll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn’t add up.

The House passed its version of the health bill in November by 220-215. Of those 220, one was a Republican who now is a no. One Democrat who voted yes has died, two Democrats who voted yes have resigned, and one Democrat who voted no has resigned as well. So if everyone but the Republican votes the way they did four months ago, the score would be 216-215.

But not everyone is ready to vote that way. The House bill included an amendment prohibiting funding of abortions sponsored by Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak. The Senate bill did not…

The article continues at the WSJ.

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Did the Senate Parliamentarian Just Kill Obamacare?

BY John McCormack
The Weekly Standard
March 11, 2010, 3:39 PM

This is big, big news (if true):

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.

The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

House Democratic leaders have been searching for a way to ensure that any move they make to approve the Senate-passed $871 billion health care reform bill is followed by Senate action on a reconciliation package of adjustments to the original bill. One idea is to have the House and Senate act on reconciliation prior to House action on the Senate’s original health care bill.

Information Republicans say they have received from the Senate Parliamentarian’s Office eliminates that option. House Democratic leaders last week began looking at crafting a legislative rule that would allow the House to approve the Senate health care bill, but not forward it to Obama for his signature until the Senate clears the reconciliation package.

House Democrats do not trust the Senate; they do not want to pass the Senate bill–with all the special deals in it–and hope the Senate will fix these problems and others later. Even Democrat Michael Capuano of Massachusetts is expressing very grave concerns about passing the Senate bill unamended.

If this report is true, the parliamentarian’s ruling seems to nix the “Slaughter Solution,” whereby the House would deem the Senate bill passed only after the reconciliation bill is passed by both the House and the Senate.

So where do Democrats go from here? One possibility is that Harry Reid will fire the Senate parliamentarian.

If Democrats really think they can get away with such a heavy-handed move in the first place, they might as well replace the parliamentarian with Rahm Emanuel and kill two birds with one stone.

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Ask Not In For Whom the Fix Is

Stephen Green
3/11/2010, 4:02 PM

Via (again) Ed Driscoll, we’ve got Jen Rubin’s take on the latest reconciliation revelation:

So there you have it, House Democrats. Once you vote for the Senate bill, Obama will sign it, the Left will declare victory, and who knows if reconcilliation will ever happen. This confirms that the Democratic leadership has once again been hiding the ball and not leveling with either their own members or with the public about the procedural aspects of the bill. It will certainly not help to calm the nerves of House Democrats, who already suspect the “fix” is in and that they are being trapped into voting for the noxious Senate bill — Cornhusker Kickback and all.

So, here’s what else you have, House Democrats. The “fix” for the Senate bill is, the fix is in.

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Alexander, Gregg threaten war over reconciliation fixes
By J. Taylor Rushing
The Hill
03/11/10, 04:07 PM ET

Two senior Republicans on Thursday said they will use a grueling parliamentary process to chip away at healthcare reform legislation if Democrats decide to use reconciliation.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and ranking Republican Budget Committee member Judd Gregg (N.H.) said they will force votes on virtually every sentence of the healthcare reform bill to overcome Democrats’ parliamentary maneuver.

Reconciliation, created by a 1974 budget act, allows bills to be passed with a simple majority of 51 votes — or 50, assuming Vice President Joe Biden breaks a tie — instead of the supermajority threshold of 60. Democrats currently control 59 seats.

Gregg said Republicans would force votes on a provision in the 1974 bill that says reconciliation can only be used to amend laws, plus another longstanding Senate rule that says reconciliation can only be used for budget-related issues, plus yet another Senate rule that says 60 votes are necessary to waive the budget-only rule. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that insisted he had 41 votes for the last roadblock, thereby denying Democrats the magic 60.

“There will be a lot of tough votes on this bill — a lot — that our colleagues are going to have to take,” Gregg said. “We’re going to go sentence by sentence through it, and if any sentence is deemed that that policy would be more significant than budget adjustments, I’ll raise a motion or someone could raise a motion, and that sentence will be knocked out.”

Decisions about what could be knocked out would be made by the Senate parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, whom both Democratic and Republican leaders said Thursday they are already talking to…

The article continues at The Hill.

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House Democrats looking at ‘Slaughter Solution’ to pass Obamacare without a vote on Senate bill UPDATED!

By: Mark Tapscott
Washington Examiner
03/10/10, 4:17 PM EST

Would House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow House Democratic leaders try to cram the Senate version of Obamacare through the House without actually having a recorded vote on the bill?

Not only is the answer yes, they would, they have figured out a way to do it, according to National Journal’s Congress Daily:

“House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday.

“Slaughter is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version.

“Slaughter has not taken the plan to Speaker Pelosi as Democrats await CBO scores on the corrections bill. ‘Once the CBO gives us the score, we’ll spring right on it,’ she said.”

Each bill that comes before the House for a vote on final passage must be given a rule that determines things like whether the minority would be able to offer amendments to it from the floor.

In the Slaughter Solution, the rule would declare that the House “deems” the Senate version of Obamacare to have been passed by the House. House members would still have to vote on whether to accept the rule, but they would then be able to say they only voted for a rule, not for the bill itself.

Would that rationale fly with the public? Is it logical? Of course not. But remember, these folks have persuaded themselves that a majority of the American people really want Obamacare. A blog post on House Minority Leader John Boehner’s blog described the approach as a “twisted scheme.”

How much fun will it be for Democrats representing congressional districts carried by John McCain in 2008 to be constantly reminded about the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the Slaughter Solution, the death panels, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, individual mandates, etc.

UPDATE: Turner on Nancy’s new rules

Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute offers another insight into the Democrats’ desperate search for some way to pass a proposal that is clearly opposed by a majority of their constituents.

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Senate parliamentarian raises bar for passing healthcare reform

By Alexander Bolton
The Hill
03/11/10 at 04:21 PM ET

The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign the healthcare reform bill before Democrats can use special budget rules to pass changes demanded by the House.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, told colleagues about the ruling Thursday afternoon, according to a Democratic source familiar with the meeting.

The ruling is a blow to Democrats who planned for Obama to sign in quick succession the Senate version of healthcare reform legislation and a companion measure with changes requested by House lawmakers.

House lawmakers, who are distrustful of their Senate counterparts, have demanded that both measures pass Congress at the same time. Some House members worry that if they passed the Senate healthcare bill, senators would not approve the sidecar measure with the changes at a later date.

Democrats acknowledged the parliamentarian’s ruling was a setback but argued that it does not deliver a fatal blow.

This article continues at The Hill.

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It’s official now: ObamaCare will fund abortions if it passes
By: David Freddoso
Washington Examiner
03/11/10, 4:25 PM EST

House Democrats have given up on fixing the Senate ObamaCare bill’s abortion problem, the Associated Press reports:

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said Thursday that the leadership will try to secure the necessary 216 votes to pass the bill without reworking the divisive abortion provision.

The Senate version of health care reform would loosen current rules about federal money going to pay for abortions. The House version did not, and as a result a number of pro-life Democrats supported it. Because abortion cannot be fixed through an accompanying reconciliation bill, it looks like pro-life Democrats are out of luck with three bad options. They will either kill ObamaCare with their “no” votes, go back on their word and disappoint constituents by voting “yes,” or else watch it become law without their support.

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Health Care End Game Begins Monday

It all starts in the House Budget Committee.

BY Matthew Continetti
The Weekly Standard
March 11, 2010 5:00 PM

Nancy Pelosi does not have the 216 votes necessary to pass the Senate health care bill. She’s planning to go ahead without the votes of the Stupak 12. Today the Senate parliamentarian ruled the Senate bill must become law before “fixes” can be made via the parliamentary tactic known as reconciliation. The GOP Senate caucus will rigorously enforce the Byrd rule, limiting the reconciliation changes to budget matters and nothing more.

What’s going on? The final push for Obamacare is about to begin. It starts on Monday, when the House Budget Committee will insert reconciliation instructions into the November House health care bill. By late Monday / early Tuesday, Budget will pass this bill and send it to the House Rules Committee, where Pelosi will change the language so that it matches the Senate bill. This is the final compromise legislation that may come to a vote on the House floor within weeks. “They’re creating the shell,” says Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Why move ahead when the votes aren’t there? Pelosi hopes that launching the process will create enough momentum to flip Democrats her way. The clock is ticking. The speaker has two weeks before Congress breaks for Easter Recess. And the recess could kill off health care reform, since many of the wavering Democrats will get an earful from their constituents when they return home. Republicans expect Democrats to lose votes over the break.

But that won’t matter if health care reform is already law…

The article continues at The Weekly Standard

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Conference call with Reps. Gingrey & McMorris-Rodgers on Healthcare

Posted by LadyImpactOhio
Thursday, March 11th at 6:32PM EST

I had an opportunity to be included on a conference call which began at 4:30 pm today with Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) discussing the Healthcare bill. Below is a synopsis of the call.

Rep. Gingrey is an M.D. who has presently put his OB-GYN practice on hold for the last eight years while he has been a Congressman and therefore knows much about medical issues and what may and will befall us should this Healthcare bill be passed.

Rep. Gingrey stated 73% of Americans oppose this bill, which would allow the federal government to takeover 1/6 of our economy. He feels there needs to be health reform, however the current bill should be scrapped and begun again and could conceivably be written into law before Election 2010 so voters can determine which legislators they feel would be in their best interest. Two areas he stressed where reform is needed would be dealing with coverage for “high risk” patients and those with pre-existing conditions. He is sure there is not one Republican who will vote for the bill in its present form.

I questioned Rep. Gingrey regarding tort reform and whether or not he feels people should be permitted to purchase coverage over state lines. To the former, he stated as a physician he knows all too well the frustration of having to practice “defensive medicine.” He stated the CBO has estimated $54B could be saved over 10 years with tort reform, but in his opinion he feels $54B could be saved every year. To the latter question, he believes people should be permitted to shop for insurance on the internet if they desire.

Rep. Rodgers was asked the question if today’s ruling from the Senate Parliamentarian that Mr. Obama must sign Congress’ original Healthcare reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package would make it harder for Ms. Pelosi to put this bill into law, she stated “considerably.” It will make it much more difficult for the House because they will have to vote on the Senate bill as is, with all the “vote buying” that went into the Senate version, ex. “The Cornhusker Kickback” and this will make it more difficult for House Dems to swallow. She stressed that reconciliation is limited in scope, and relates only to budgetary items, and today’s ruling will be a lot for House Democrats to swallow.

Rep. Gingrey agreed, stating there has to be an element of trust by the House for the Senate to later pass all the amendments they promised would be included, and Ms. Pelosi would then need 60 votes, which he is confident she doesn’t have. He stated there is no way this can be accomplished by Mr. Obama’s “deadline” of March 18.

When questioned if the above parliamentary ruling would make the “Slaughter Rule” moot, Rep. Gingrey said he believed it would. The Slaughter Rule is eponymous to Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, who is chair of the House Rules Committee. Her committee was set to meet on March 17 and deem the Senate version of the bill passed. This would have allowed Senate Democrats to avoid a vote, and thus any negative repercussions from their constituents as to how they voted on the bill. Clever, huh?

Rep. Gingrey stated should the bill be eventually passed, it could conceivably be repealed if the Republicans regain control of Congress in the fall; however he stressed Mr. Obama would still be in office and would most certainly veto the repeal. It would then require a 2/3 majority of Congress to overrule him.

In closing, Rep. Gingrey stated he feels this is not a time for us to become complacent and to assume the bill will or will not pass. But Conservatives should renew and keep up their grass-roots initiatives, activism; get on the phone to their Congressmen and to DC for rallies if possible…

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