How Should Dems Manage the Healthcare Repeal Circus?

| Thu Jan. 20, 2011 2:02 PM EST

It's a slow day, so let's do some political strategizing. Here's what the LA Times has to say about yesterday's vote in the House to repeal healthcare reform:

The Senate showdown may not begin for several weeks, but promises to be substantially messier and more drawn-out than the debate just completed in the House....In the Senate, Republicans will have to use contentious procedural maneuvers to pressure Democrats to vote on a repeal measure. Democrats retain a 53-47 edge in the Senate, counting two independents who caucus with them, and Democratic leaders firmly oppose repeal.

"The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn't want to vote on this bill. But I assure you, we will," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement Wednesday after the House vote.

Here's my take: Democrats are nuts to take this attitude. They should bring the House bill up for a vote quickly, let Republicans speechify about it for a bit, and then vote it down, 53-47. End of story, time to move on.

But wait! With Republicans in control of the House, it's not like the Senate can really get much done anyway. So what's the harm in wasting a bit of time and making this a knock-down-drag-out fight? After all, the House leadership got a nice, clean repeal vote by bringing up the bill under a closed rule and allowing no potentially embarrassing amendments and virtually no debate. In the Senate, by contrast, Democrats control things, and they can bring up all the amendments they want. So maybe they should play along, hold hearings, and force Republicans to vote on, say, an amendment to the repeal bill that would keep the preexisting condition ban in place. And another one that would keep the donut hole fix in place. Etc. etc.

Is that better? Who would benefit more from a bunch of dueling amendments? And since Republicans seem to be dedicated to full and complete repeal, full stop, would they offer any amendments anyway? Comments?

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