Losing the Forest for the Weeds

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Let’s recap: If the current plan is for the House to pass the Senate healthcare bill followed by a small “sidecar” of amendments, exactly how is this going to be done procedurally? House Democrats, who don’t trust the Senate to follow through on the sidecar, have been proposing ever more baroque methods for passing everything at one time, culminating yesterday with…..oh, forget it. You don’t want to know. (But click here if you’re masochistic.) And anyway, it doesn’t matter, because the Senate parliamentarian has apparently ruled that their latest fanciful scheme violates Senate rules.

Frankly, it violates common sense, too, and probably the U.S. constitution, for that matter. Plus, it’s just plain dumb. At some point, you have to trust that your co-partisans aren’t going to shaft you completely. Steve Benen:

Sure, there are tensions between the chambers — a common phenomenon over the last 200+ years — but there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to think the Senate would promise to pass a budget fix, and then decide not to. Indeed, the leadership is not only putting this in writing, but let’s also not forget that senators want to pass the budget fix — it makes changes the senators themselves want to see — and have no incentive to pull a fast one on the [House].

We know the upper chamber can obviously be dysfunctional, but Senate Dems aren’t insane — why on earth would they want a budget fix, ask the House to pass a budget fix, declare their support for a budget fix, promise to pass a budget fix, and then decide not to vote for it? Knowing that it would make all future negotiations between the chambers completely impossible?

I get that the House is nervous, but this fear doesn’t make sense.

I wouldn’t go as far as Steve. There are some senators who probably like the Senate bill just the way it is and don’t want to pass the sidecar. There are others in the centrist caucus who’d like to vote against it for other reasons. And even if 51 senators are on board, there’s always the chance that Republicans can successfully gum up the works or that the parliamentarian will make some weird ruling that kills some provision of the sidecar. Who knows?

So House Dems do have some reason to be suspicious. Hell, I’d be suspicious. But I wouldn’t be paranoid. At some point, if Harry Reid and the appropriate committee chairmen all sign on, and Barack Obama signs on, and the House leadership feels comfortable, then you pull the trigger. The odds of getting screwed aren’t zero, but they’re pretty damn small.

We’ve been at this for over a year, and at long last the time for posturing and gameplaying is over. The holdouts need to dig into their consciences and do the right thing. Let’s get on with it.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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