You might have missed it in all the hubbub about the so-called "beer summit," but health care reform passed a major milestone on Friday. By a vote of 31-28, the Energy and Commerce committee became the third and final committee in the House to pass a version of reform legislation. The three committees' very similar bills will now be combined. Meanwhile, in the Senate, legislation has passed the more liberal Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee but remains stuck in the Max Baucus-led Finance committee, where a group of three conservative Democrats and three even more conservative Republicans is supposedly trying to craft a bipartisan bill. (I've already written that we should worry about whether Baucus is making a sincere effort.)
There won't be votes on the House or Senate bills this month. The House has already recessed; the Senate has another few days. That means any momentum health care reformed gained from Friday's vote will be long gone by the time Congress gets back from its vacation.
But while the action in DC cools down, the fight across the country will be heating up. Liberals will be gearing up to support the public option and conservatives will be trying to stall reform altogether. What members of Congress see and hear back to their districts will definitely affect their votes when they return to DC. The biggest open question is what impact Barack Obama's campaign organization, Organizing for America, will have. Will OFA put pressure on members of Congress to get reform through? Or will OFA members' voices be drowned out by well-funded and extremely motivated right-wing groups? I'll be listening in to some OFA strategy calls over the next few days and talking to organizers to see what kind of impact the group is having. We'll also be taking a look at the opposition's strategy and reporting on its tactics. It's sure to be a contentious month.