Today on CBS’s “Washington Unplugged,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY) threw some very cold water on the current plan of having the House pass the Senate bill unchanged, followed by the passing of some “fixes” through reconciliation. Stupak said, “I don’t think they have ten votes for the Senate bill.”
Despite claiming the current plan to pass health care reform with the House acting first on the Senate bill would not get enough votes in the House, Stupak sounded rather upbeat about the possibility of passing health care reform with what sounds like a reconciliation-only strategy. If this becomes the preferred strategy for passing something called health care reform, it would represent a significant change in direction.
I was just talking with some of the leadership folks here earlier this morning at the Energy and Commerce committee and we don’t necessarily have to vote on the Senate bill. As Anthony [Weiner] said. I don’t think they have ten votes for the Senate bill. But during the reconciliation process this is where the president can put his proposal or a single-payer, whatever the president is going to put forward and that we can make that part of reconciliation that would be the vehicle we would use…
I’ve outlined several different strategies to achieve health care reform using reconciliation (here, here, here). Most of the strategies for expanding coverage using a reconciliation bill would rely heavily upon expanding existing public health programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and SCHIP. It is interesting that Stupak brings this up because dealing with Stupak’s concerns about abortion coverage on the new exchanges has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks to passage of health care reform legislation. Since the current public programs are all covered by the Hyde language, which Stupak supports, he, in theory, should have no abortion-related issues with simply expanding public programs.
Stupak’s statement might be one of the first signs that Democrats are concluding they simply can’t get the votes for the Senate health care bill, but can’t walk away from health care reform empty handed. A new, clean, and easy to explain reconciliation-only bill is one potential political solution.