Sunday Snapshot: Get Ready To Reconcile, Baby

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The White House and Democrats had one mission today: prepare the political class for the President's announcement, probably Wednesday, that he thinks the Senate ought to proceed with reconciliation to ****pass or modify**** a comprehensive health care bill (passed by the House or Senate first? Not sure.).  But Democrats still don't agree: Kent Conrad, the budget committee chairman, says that the House must pass the extant Senate bill (with all the bad stuff in there) first; the House wants to see if the Senate has the votes for the Obama bill (with all the bad stuff taken out), and Conrad said today that reconciliation can't be used to pass #HCR.

(BTW:  After an exam this morning at the National Navy Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, President Obama was pronounced to be in good health. Read his physician's report here. [POTUS MEDICAL EXAM FEB 2010].pdf)

1. On Face the Nation, majority whip Steny Hoyer said this:

"I don't think we have the votes in terms of a specific proposal because there's not a specific proposal on the table yet," he said.

So -- on This Week, did Nancy Pelosi say she has 217 votes?

VARGAS: If -- but the point is when it does finally come to vote on it in the House, you're certain that you can muster the 217 votes that you need...

 PELOSI:  We...

VARGAS: ... even with the differences over abortion language?  Things...

PELOSI:  Yes.

VARGAS:... that there are members of the House who voted in favor of it before, who are now saying, "We can't vote for this bill, because of the Senate language on abortion?

PELOSI:  Well let me say I have this in three -- just so you know how we sequence this.  First we zero in on what the policy will be.  And that is what we'll be doing -- following the president's summit yesterday.

Secondly, we'll see what the Senate can do.  What is the substance?  And what is the Senate prepared to do?  And then we'll go to the third step as to what my -- my members will vote for.  But we have a very diverse party.  But we all agree that the present system is unsustainable.  It's unsustainable.

2. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell previews the argument against reconciliation on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley: 

CROWLEY: He did, Senator. But I just want to -- and I know you've heard this argument -- I want to point something out to our viewers, and that is, since 1980, there have been 16 times that reconciliation was used under a Republican-controlled Senate and there were six times under a Democratic-controlled Senate. 

So it's not all that unusual. The minority always hates it, because it takes away their filibuster power, but these were not just budget issues. This was welfare reform. These were the Bush tax cuts. These were things like that. And you voted for reconciliation. 

So -- so, you know, beyond that, if we could get to the issue of what can you do -- you're going to vote no, but are their things within the parameters -- that the Democrats seem to be willing to go for reconciliation -- is there something that you all can do in that process to either slow this down or stop it? 

MCCONNELL: Well, let's talk about the fairness of it. Just because it's been used before for lesser issues doesn't mean it's appropriate for this issue. 

You had Senator Byrd himself, the president pro tem of the Senate, the former Democratic majority leader, saying within the last year to use this device for something like health care would be an outrage which must be resisted. That's a Democrat, Candy. That's not Republicans.


3.  Viewers watching Meet the Press might have gotten the impression that the White House cut a deal with the insurance companies -- not true -- though John McCain swept that up in his denigration of all the "unsavory deals" that the Senate and House had to cut in order to get a bill passed. (The Cornhusker Kickback (true), the alleged White House deal with the pharmaceutical industry -- still disputed but ultimately ignored by Congress.)  White House Health Policy Adviser Nancy-Ann De Parle.  De Parle would not say whether incremental reform would be considered acceptable to POTUS.

On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Bob Menendez said that the Senate WILL have the votes to pass a bill through the reconciliation process.

4. On Meet, McCain said that he and Sen. Lindsay Graham would propose legislation requiring that Medicare and Social Security changes not be dealt with through the reconciliation process.

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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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