"If you had gotten to the point where both houses had passed
something," Hobson said, "that would have been okay. If the House had
just passed something...that would have been okay. If Senate Finance
had come out with something that didn't go anyhwere....didn't finish
the markup or didn't go to the floor, that would have been all bad."
Here's what Democrats hope to have going into recess: a tri-committee
House bill approved by the lower chamber. Pelosi said
Thursday that the House will hammer out and vote on a final bill next
week, which will be difficult, given a stalemate with conservative Blue Dogs over cost.
But that won't be the plan, per se: moderate Senate votes are as coveted as Blue Dog ones, and Senate negotiations will
still lie at the heart of the process, even if the House has produced
its own working model.
Passing something in the House will show that Congress is making progress, and
it should alleviate some of the fear that health reform has fallen
apart. But at least one conservative is hoping Pelosi
succeeds, so that his group has something to talk about when lawmakers
return home to consort with their constituents for a month.
"If the vote's passed, we've actually got something we can point to,"
Freedom's Watch FreedomWorks Press Secretary Adam Brandon said. His group will
coordinate grassroots pressure against Democratic reforms in August,
encouraging members to call and visit Senate offices, appear at
town-halls held by Democratic lawmakers, send op-eds to local
publications--generally stirring up talk of the costs and tax hikes in
"It can get nebulous when you start saying, 'They're gonna do this and
they're gonna do that, and everything's on the table,'" Brandon said.
"When they vote on something, it's easy for us to point out."
"If there's no plan out there, the strategy is you raise questions,"
Brandon said. "But when you have a specific bill, you say, 'The House
passed this version, and it's gonna tax my health benefits.'"
It's about refiication: if it exists, you can hit it.
(Some other factors: If the House passes a bill, Republicans will also spend the month
talking about one of their favorite nemeses--Pelosi--probably trying to make her the face of health reform, knowing that Americans viewed her less favorably than Dick Cheney last month and that her approval rating dropped to 39 percent in May, following her dispute with the CIA. And with the House vote out of the way, conservatives can focus
their efforts on Senate offices, of which there are only 100.)
Not having a plan has its advantages and disadvantages during August.
What Democrats may end up with is something in between: a House bill
that probably won't be the final reform package--a sign of progress and
proof that health reform is alive, but also an object for conservatives
to attack, even if Congress isn't done crafting its plan.
A House-passed bill would show people that health care reform is moving forward; it
will be up to lawmakers, liberal and conservative activists, and
President Obama to present that progress and find out whether Americans
like where those reforms are going.