Monday, March 1, 2010

The State of Health Insurance Reform

Jon Cohn has the goods. It comes down to finding 217 216 (UPDATE: See below) votes in the House. If you haven't been paying attention to the daily ins and outs (and why would you; sausage making is an ugly business), you'll likely find this surprising... since it's always the recalcitrant and feckless Senate with it's effective 60 vote supra majority rule that is the roadblock. However, since both chambers have passed legislation... and my adoptive state shamed itself by electing Scott Brown... the plan is for the House to pass the Senate bill, and then for agreed upon amendments to be passed via budget reconciliation (which only needs 50 Senate votes plus the VP). This means the most annoying "centrist" members of the Senate aren't a factor, but in the House we've lost three Dems... John Murtha (RIP), Robert Wexler (retired), and Neil Abercrombie (running for Hawaii governor)... as well as their single GOP vote (Joseph Cao). So out of the 220 that originally voted for it, they're down to at least 216... and maybe worse depending on how Pro-Life Dems like Bart Stupak feel about the abortion language, which is more moderate in the Senate bill and can't be changed via budget reconciliation. There are 39 "No" votes from conservative Democrats that are still out there to be swayed back, but it's impossible to know what they are thinking right now. From a "political cover" perspective, voting no again is going to be the most appealing... but not passing anything is political suicide for the whole party, so somebody is going to have to take one for the team.

So should you be optimistic or pessimistic? Well Jon Cohn says there's reason for both:

Still, I know people on the inside who have their doubts. While they think 217 votes is doable, they're not sure either the administration or House leadership are going to do it. They worry Pelosi may not have enough credibility with centrists, particularly after she pushed them to take a politically painful vote on climate change legislation last year. And they worry that the administration still has a habit of sending mixed signals at precisely the wrong moment--like it did last week, right before the bipartisan meeting, when stories of a fallback "plan b" circulated last week.

So there is reason for hope and there is reason for anxiety. Really, it all depends on how you look at that inkblot.

Personally, I'm optimistic... but then I thought there was no way Coakley was going to lose, so my political prognostication record is not exactly stellar.

UPDATE: For anyone who wants an incredibly in-depth analysis of what the status of every House member is in regards to health insurance reform, check out this Campaign Diaries post.