It's hard to imagine that Reagan would be quoted in the midst of the healthcare mudslinging around Congress these days, and even harder to believe a Democrat would do such a thing, but these are extraordinary times here (the comment about nuclear warfare on healthcare is just too obvious -- I'll refrain).
"Trust but verify. We haven't decided. But it would have ot be an absolute assurance," Cong. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, told reporters Wednesday, when we asked what assurances House Democrats would need in order to pass both the Senate's healthcare bill and a fast track reconciliation bill that makes fixes to that bill. ('reconciliation' is a procedure that circumvents a filibuster)
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, echoed those concerns when asked if he had faith that Senate Dems would be able to muster the requisite support on their end, "We're working on having that faith verified."
This is the big problem now --- House Democrats really don't like what the Senate passed --- with its special treatment of Nebraska with more Medicaid money, Louisiana, as well, and with a carve out/exemption for seniors in Florida when it comes to Medicare Advantage cuts, not to mention the excise tax on high-cost health plans, known as the "Cadillac tax." There's a lot of distrust here.
In order to get the reconciliation process going, the House must pass the Senate's healthcare bill, a daunting prospect, but it has to happen, in order for Congress to have something to reconcile.
And Republicans are attempting to capitalize on that fear, adding it to their arsenal as they decry Democrats' move to "jam" (their word) a bill through with no GOP support.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, who usually cannot stop talking about reconciliation (he's something of an expert as the top Republican on the Budget Committee), just told reporters, "Once they pass that bill, what's the incentive for anyone here (in the Senate) to do anything? I don’t see the incentive for them to pass a reconciliation bill."
When he was asked about Senate Dems working to give assurances that they have the votes to pass reconciliation, Gregg quipped with a grin, "And is that in the mail - those assurances?"
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, raised the specter of House Democrats getting tarred with that one vote -- on the Senate's healthcare bill, regardless of whether or not a reconciliation bill is passed.
The GOP leader said, "I’m not going to assume this thing is going to pass the House. No matter how many times they try to dress it up, the House is going to be called upon, House Democrats only, are going to be called upon to pass a bill that has the 'Cornhusker Kickback,' the 'Louisiana Purchase,' the 'Gator Aid' and all the rest. Now maybe they'll try to do something simultaneously that purports to fix the problem, but the votes will be there. And the reaction of public to go to such lengths, to such extraordinary lengths, to ignore public opinion is not going to put issue behind them put it ahead of them."
Democrats, on the other hand, are holding up KY Sen. Jim Bunning and his filibuster of an extension of unemployment benefits (in order to try to get them paid for) as a prime example of Republican obstructionism. They're holding it up as Exhibit A for why they need to go it alone on healthcare.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, said, "This has been the strategy of Republicans in the Senate. Their strategy has been to obstruct, to stop, to block. They want the status quo."
Van Hollen joined in, "It's time that people throughout the country understand that what we saw in the last couple days is in fact a symptom of a much larger problem and a very calculated and cynical strategy to try to bring the work of the Amer people to a halt."
At this point, it seems Democrats are trying hard to produce a reconciliation product by next week. But that's a heck of a tough lift. As stated before in this blog, numerous times, reconciliation is a very tough process. And it seems the more time Republicans have to sow the seeds of doubt, the more chance they have of being successful.