House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that she may be close to amassing enough votes to pass the Senate version of a health care overhaul bill in the House. The obtuse procedure called "reconciliation," which avoids the 60 vote threshold in the Senate, must begin in the House Budget Committee, which began debating a reconciliation bill Monday.
This health care bill is awful, but every poll shows that most of you already know that. The bill will effectively destroy the best parts of the world's finest health care and perpetuate those parts that don't work. According to the president's own actuary, it will increase costs for everyone whose insurance is not subsidized by the government. It is fiscally reckless, adding an enormous new entitlement when the nation is already approaching bankruptcy because of our inability to pay for the entitlements we already have. It increases taxes for 10 years and provides benefits for 6 years, creating an illusion that it balances the budget when, in fact, it will make our already unsustainable deficits substantially worse. Morally, it is reprehensible because it promises a lot of free stuff to people with no way to pay for it. It is a Ponzi scheme. This is a health care bill Bernie Madoff would be proud of.
But enough of what you already know. Here is a playbook of what to watch for in the next two weeks:
* The Senate parliamentarians have determined that it is not possible to use "reconciliation" to "reconcile" a law that doesn't exist. So, the House will have to pass the Senate bill, complete with the "Cornhusker Kickback," the "Louisiana Purchase," and the "Gator Aid." The president then must sign it into law, before they can change it through "reconciliation." So, whatever changes they promise, don't count on them.
* The House government-run health care bill passed with 220 votes in a House that had 435 members. Since then, four members have died or resigned. Three of those voted for the bill and one against. The one Republican who voted for the bill, Joseph Cao, R-La., has pledged he will vote "no" next time. That means there are only 216 yes votes remaining. But because now there are 431 members in the House, the majority needs one more than half, 216 votes, to pass it.
* The Senate bill, for the first time, would permit federal funding of abortions. There are 12 House Democrats who voted "yes" on the House bill who have said they will not vote for any bill that allows federal abortion funding. The speaker cannot "fix" this issue through reconciliation because that process can only be used for fiscal issues, not general policy. So, these 12, led by Bart Stupak, D-Mich., should be tough, if not impossible votes to get.
* Six Democrats who voted "yes" the last time, come from states where their Democratic senator may vote "no" this time since 60 votes will not be needed in the Senate. That places them in political peril.
* On the other side, there are three Democrats who voted "no" last time who are now not running for reelection. They will be encouraged to switch their vote since there is no electoral downside to their doing so.
* But then there is Marion Berry, D-Ark. He announced in January that he would retire from Congress at the end of his current term. He apparently did this after a meeting with the president in which he urged Mr. Obama not to ask conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats to vote against the will of their constituents. He was apparently rebuked. He then declared that the Democratic health care plan "dead." But he had previously voted 'yes.' Could he switch to 'no'?
In the words of that great American, Yogi Berra, "It ain't over 'til it's over." There is still a chance to defeat this government takeover of health care that will bankrupt us all. I hope this "playbook" helps you stay in the fight.