From Booman Tribune

A Kind of Pep Talk
by BooMan
Sun Sep 6th, 2009 at 10:59:52 AM EST

This past month hasn’t really been very much fun for me as a blogger. It’s always difficult to find material when Congress is in recess. When the president goes on vacation, it just makes it harder. A few weeks ago I wearied of writing analysis pieces on health care because I’m not the type to obsess about every public statement or to try overly hard to read tea leaves. The analysis I did in early-to-mid August still holds true today, but many other bloggers have been hyperventilating in the interim.

What have I been saying for months? I have been saying that the Democrats don’t have 60 votes for a health care bill (and wouldn’t want a bill that could get 60 votes) and that we are headed for the budget reconciliation process that starts on October 15th. I said that I wasn’t sure exactly how it would all go down and that there would be a lot of ugliness and posturing as the effort to reach 60 votes struggled and failed.

What else have I been saying? I said that the Democrats had to make it look like they’d made every effort to be reasonable and reach a compromise that could garner bipartisan support. That’s a job that fell on the Finance Committee chair, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. Yes, he got strung along and it didn’t make sense to negotiate with people like Mike Enzi and Chuck Grassley, but the objective is to visibly exhaust all efforts at striking a deal. Now we are down to negotiating with Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. There’s no reason to show her the back of the hand, and it still provides good optics to be seen as working for her support.

Did the crazy townhall meetings during August change the basic dynamics? I’m not really sure that they did. Even before August, I was predicting that we’d be headed for budget reconciliation. The only thing that might have changed is that I’m a little more certain of that fact. We’re watching a bit of kabuki theater, is all.

My best guess is that the Finance Committee is going to hammer out a bill before September 15th that is significantly different from the four other bills that have been reported out of congressional committees so far. It will then be merged with the HELP Committee bill. There is a very small chance that that combined bill will get the support of all 59 Democratic caucus members plus Olympia Snowe, and come to a vote. More likely, that bill will be successfully filibustered. And that will force things into the reconciliation process.

If the Senate miraculously passes something before October 15th, the progressives in the House will probably spike any conference report that doesn’t include a ‘robust’ public option, and we’ll be forced into reconciliation that way.

There are really three things worth watching. First, who gets the blame for the failure to pass a health care bill at the 60 vote threshold. It could be the centrist Democratic senators, the progressive Democratic congresspeople, the White House, or the Republicans. Second, how does the White House structure the reconciliation process and how do the congressional parliamentarians feel about it? Will they allow the critical elements of the bill to be considered under budget reconciliation rules? And, third, do the Democrats shoot for a more aggressive and progressive bill at the 50-vote threshold than they attempted at the 60-vote threshold, or do they water the bill down even more as they lose momentum and become desperate to pass something?

It’s not worth it to torment myself (and you) with daily breathless rantings about the latest messaging. The dynamics of this debate have been obvious for months. Not much has changed. Keep your eye on the ball and focus on what actually matters.

Thanks BooMan.

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