House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has become the latest prominent Democrat to say that the House must move first on health care reform before the Senate can act. On CBS’ Sunday morning program Face the Nation, Hoyer said, “Whether we’re willing or not, we have to go first if we are going to correct thing that the House disagrees with. […] The House will have to move first on some sort of corrections or reconciliation bill.”
This is in line with recent remarks from Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) who both said the House will need to move first. It’s an apparent change in stance for the House as House Democrats had previously insisted that the Senate must act first. Whether House Democrats can find the votes to move first is an open question as is whether Senate Democrats will actually follow through on a promise to pass a reconciliation to change the underlying bill.
Given the current state of the Senate, any House member who votes for the current Senate bill should be prepared to defend their vote assuming the reconciliation fix never happens. There are several potential stumbling blocks for reconciliation. Senate Democrats might back out of their promise after their comprehensive bill passes the House. When it comes time to decide the nuts and bolts of the reconciliation bill in the Senate, the negotiations could collapse. Application of the Byrd rule and floor amendment could either leave the reconciliation measure impassable or result in a final product that makes insufficient changes to the comprehensive legislation.