“We’ll Fix It In Conference”
Atrios points to Ezra:
Democrats are likely to walk out of conference committee with 60 senators in their party. Ben Nelson will not be able to ask to change this bit he doesn’t like, and Evan Bayh will not be allowed to offer an amendment weakening that piece. They stand with the White House or against it. And it is, in the estimation of most observers I’ve talked to, hard to imagine them literally filibustering the final vote on health reform. The White House would torture them until they lost reelection. And if no Democrats are willing to filibuster, then the White House could lose as many as 10 of them and still pass the bill.
The bill the Senate Finance Committee writes in June matters only insofar as it affects the bill Obama gets in October. And there are scenarios in which it’s very important for that final bill and scenarios in which it’s not very important at all. The problem is we don’t know which playbook the White House is working from.
It would certainly be nice if all of this was theater and the health care bill is just going to be made awesome magically in the Conference Committee. But there’s no way to know that, and no way to exert any pressure once it gets to that point.
I would say that there are a couple of things going on here. I do believe that everyone is playing the game of "get something passed and we’ll fix it in conference." As Ezra notes, you can potentially lose up to 10 Senators and still pass health care. President Lieberman and President Nelson just aren’t as important as they used to be.
The chances that the administration will step in and pressure centrists to support a strong public plan in conference are about zero. In fact, I’d bet just about everything I own that the opposite will happen — in order to lure the centrists, they’ll put the screws to progressives just like they did on the supplemental to cave and pass something that will make Blue Cross and Kay Hagan happy.
Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank will help them, and Henry Waxman will stand up and heap praise on this tremendous achievement, because in the end that’s the price of leadership.
Which is why it’s critical that 40 Democrats commit now to kill anything that comes out of conference that doesn’t have a public plan which is 1) available nationwide, 2) on day one and 3) answerable to Congress and the voters.
They need to say it now and be on the record so that when that day comes, it becomes very hard to back down, even when everyone around them is screaming that they are responsible for killing health care reform.
The only way to prevent a health care bill from becoming a big bailout of the insurance industry is to get these members to commit now, and make it impossible to back down even in the wake of tremendous pressure.