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Why Do House Democrats Care More about Protecting Weird Senate Rules than Protecting Their Seats?

One thing that has really bugged me is why vulnerable House Democrats are willing to walk the plank on health care reform to protect weird, stupid Senate rules they all hate anyway. Instead of passing the Senate bill as is and then hoping the Senate approves the changes they want through reconciliation, the House Democrats could technically create a “new” clean merged bill and pass that whole bill (and every provision) using reconciliation. They don’t need to worry about the Byrd rule as as long as Joe Biden promises use his right according to the actual rules to overrule the non-binding suggestions of the Senate Parliamentarian. Biden can simply rule against any Republican Byrd rule point of order, therefore protecting every provision from the Byrd rule.

I can understand why Democratic senators don’t want to do that. I can even understand why the Obama administration is insisting House Democrats pass the Senate bill as is. Clearly, it is the bill that Obama wanted all along, with all the secret deals with PhRMA and the for profit Hospitals persevered. What I don’t understand is why the House Democrats are not in full revolt.

The House Democrats don’t need to vote for a bill with the “Cornhusker kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” the publicly toxic excise tax, the hated individual mandate to buy private insurance, or the special Medicare Advantage deal for Florida, and they would still be able to pass comprehensive health care reform. All it would take is for Joe Biden plus 50 Senate Democrats, willing, as a result of unprecedented Republican obstructionism, to exploit the existing rules to the maximum extent possible. Heck, House Democrats should proceed with the strategy anyway and drop the burden for passing health care reform squarely on the Senate Democrats instead.

The Democratic leadership has a choice between protecting stupid Senate rules, which the whole Senate Democratic leadership agrees need to be changed, or sacrificing their rank-and-file House members by forcing them to vote for a politically toxic bill. The Democratic leadership clearly chose to make the House Democrats walk the plank. Why rank-and-file House Democrats are going along with what seems like an act of collective insanity is beyond me. I guess House Democrats just really want to protect the weird Senate rules more than their own seats.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at