As Congressional Democrats struggle to find votes for health care reform legislation before the upcoming 2-week Easter recess, two top Republicans are promising one thing, which may actually prove to be a motivator for Dems: the raucus August recess town halls will be returning to a neighborhood near you, if a bill is left hanging through the recess without a vote.
"If the Easter break deadline passes and they've not done anything here, there will be a repeat of August on the part of the American people. And again, I think the people will do whatever they can to have their voices heard at townhall meetings and the rest to try and convey their dissatisfaction with this bill," Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, predicted.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, joined in, saying, "Just think of the arrogance of it. We have to hurry up and do this before the American people can figure it out and tell us what they believe. Is there any wonder why folks out there aren't happy with Washington?"
Kyl made one thing clear, the longer a bill hangs out there, the better Republicans feel they have it with the American people. Republicans' goal, according to Kyl, is "to see that the bills that passed the House and Senate, and the latest iteration of that...never becomes law; that we should instead stop and start over." Kyl then advocated for a bipartisan approach to a step-by-step process.
"There's never a problem with giving the American people a chance to express themselves on legislation they care a lot about. And the more opportunity they have to do that, the better," Kyl said.
Meanwhile, reconciliation, a parliamentary maneuver that allows a straight up or down vote on legislation, with no filibuster, is well underway. Democrats have been working with both the CBO, on the cost for pieces of the bill, and the House and Senate Parliamentarian on what can pass muster through the strict procedure involved with reconciliation.
Republicans, however, are not at all confident of their prospects, once the voting gets underway, hence their concerted effort the last week and a half to warn House Democrats that they could very well be left holding the bag, in this case the $871 billion Senate healthcare bill, something Cantor said came "warts and all," a reference to sweetheart deals in the measure that Democrats want to remove.
There has been some speculation that Senate Republicans would basically filibuster by amendment, but Kyl put that notion to rest on Wednesday.
"The problem with reconciliation is that you cannot have a full debate and offer amendments. You have only 20 hours, then boom, you have to vote. Now, I doubt that very many amendments will be considered during that vote," Kyl said, adding, "The minority is relegated to trying to fix the bill thru a process that does not permit any debate, but rather vote after vote after vote."
And as to whether or not Republicans could find themselves in hot water with voters if they are viewed as obstructing the process, just for the sake of obstructing, Kyl said, "I think it's kind of hard to blame Republicans if we have maybe 100 amendments...If we go all day, all night, all day, how long do you think such a process really will extend? The point is, we can't delay the bill for months. We might delay it by a few hours."
So Republicans are now left trying to peel away House Democrats in an odd kind of tug-of-war with the House Speaker and her Democratic leaders who desperately need votes to secure passage of a bill.
And Cantor made it clear, Republicans are actively lobbying their Democratic colleagues to oppose the bill. "We're in conversations all the time. Our members are constantly talking with colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Those conversations take place all the time."