HELP + Finance = Harry Reid's Recess

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We know how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to spend his recess: he has to figure out how to match the Senate HELP Committee's plans for health insurance reform with what the Senate Finance Committee is willing to pay. The political semiotics seem simple: In announcing that the Senate simply could not come to an agreement before the recess, Reid is acknowledging that the Finance Committee's draft, which is due on the floor before the recess, isn't going to pay for everything the HELP Committee wants. There is nothing subtle about the institutional politics: Reid made this news on the day after the President explicitly defended his timeline and gave what he considered to be the best argument in favor of reform. The message: you didn't help us last night, Mr. President. Reid knows that the evening news stories on health care will lead with Reid's glum announcement, and then cut to a president who they'll say is "struggling" to convey a sense of urgency. Nothing will doom the chances for health care reform more than the perception that health care is doomed.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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