Thursday, December 24, 2009

On To The Conference, Happy Holidays!

Senate Wraps Up, Conference Debate Likely in New Year

The Senate today wrapped up what seemed like an endless string of procedural votes, including filibuster ending votes and points of order with a 60-39 vote on final passage of health reform legislation. This has become the familiar party-line margin by which all of the recent significant votes have occurred.

Congress is now headed to recess for the next couple of weeks (until approximately January 12th) and the President is headed to Hawaii for vacation, so the political news is going to get fairly scarce the next couple of weeks.

When everyone returns, the painful work of reconciling the House and Senate bills will begin. It appears that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ruled out my recommendation that the House simply adopt the Senate bill as is to avoid another fight for 60 in the Senate as liberal Democrats in the House want a chance to fight for some of the House provisions (the public options, the high-end income tax and the more liberal rules for joining Medicaid.) Social conservatives in the House, led by Bart Stupak, also want an opportunity to fight to include the more conservative House language which totally precludes abortion coverage in federally subsidized plans versus the somewhat more liberal Senate provision which allows the plans to contain abortion coverage, provided the abortion coverage is paid for with individual premiums and not the federal subsidy.

In the end, other than on the abortion issue, the final bill is going to HAVE to look a lot like the Senate bill. The public option has zero chance of survival in the Senate, with Senators Nelson and Lieberman clearly on record opposed. The House bill is also far more expensive, a fact that would potentially scare off additional moderates such as Lincoln and Webb.

The Democrats are talking about the goal of getting a bill to President Obama for signature prior to the State of the Union, which will take place either the last week in January or the first week in February. This seems optimistic, but it all depends on how quickly and how much liberals will be willing to give.

Health care is not done, but a sense of momentum is certainly on the Democrats' side at this point.

Happy Holidays

It's Christmas Eve and hopefully all of you, regardless of you religious or political stripes have time to spend with your families, appreciating what is really important.

As always, I want to thank all of those who will work over the holidays so that the rest of us can enjoy our holiday. Thank you to all our soldiers, police officers and movie theater workers.

I've been digging up hard to find polls on some of the Senate races and I'll update my projections over the holidays.

Thanks for reading and have a great holiday.

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