Sunday, March 14, 2010

Durbin to House Democrats: We are not the enemy

As the reconciliation drama has unfolded in the wake of the Massachusetts Senate election, I have been repeatedly astonished at evidence that many House Democrats seem more concerned about getting rolled by the Senate than about getting rolled by Republicans -- as if an HCR bill that looks more like the Senate bill than they would like would be a worse defeat than failing to pass comprehensive reform at all.

Today, on Meet the Press, Dick Durbin articulated this sentiment, put it in historical context, and made a bid to defuse it:
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL):  Tom, when I served in the House, we used to say in the House Democratic Caucus, "The Republicans are our opponents, but the Senate is the enemy." So I can understand the built-in skepticism and lack of trust.  But I'll tell you this, we're in the process of actually contacting every single Democratic senator.  When Nancy Pelosi goes before her House Democratic Caucus, it will be with the solid assurance that when reconciliation comes over to the Senate side, we're going to pass it.

It is inconceivable that once the House passes the Senate bill, the Senate would fail to pass via reconciliation a bill that looks very like Obama's proposal -- delaying and scaling back the excise tax, expanding subsidies, expunging the single-state sweetheart deals, etc.  But fear that reconciliation would either die entirely in the Senate or change in ways that pique House members seem to be driving consideration in the House of voting for the main Senate bill  on a "self executing" basis that would only become operative once the Senate passes the reconciliation bill.  That makes no sense by any rational measure.  As Jonathan Cohn points out, "deeming" the Senate bill passed only once the Senate passes the reconciliation bill would give Senate Republicans an incentive to drag out reconciliation, whereas the House passing the Senate bill so that Obama can sign it would remove that incentive.

It's absurd for House Democrats to personalize their resentment of the Senate to the point where they are effectively treating Democratic Senators as adversaries. Senate Democrats are as fully thwarted as their House colleagues by the constraints on the power of the Senate majority imposed by the Senate's arcane rules, ruthlessly manipulated by an opposition united as only an unbending will to put partisan gain above policy considerations can unite a party. The reconciliation patch represents a joint effort  to work around and through those constraints.  The best way for House members to ensure that the reconciliation bill gets through the Senate in the form they negotiate is to pass the main Senate bill without strings attached.

1 comment:

  1. Can't they all go out and get drunk together or something? I mean, geez.