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Blue dog filibuster inevitable?

After finally realizing that the Republicans aren't negotiating in good faith and being surprised that people would be upset if they tried to remove the Public Option, the Democrats are now considering splitting health care reform into two bills, one which they pass normally, and one with more 'controversial' features that they pass via reconciliation.

(For those who aren't up on this procedural stuff, passing something via reconciliation means that you can bypass debate and get right to voting on the bill. So you don't need 60 votes to end the debate/filibuster. It's supposed to be used only for budget related votes, and anything passed via reconciliation expires when that budget plan expires, typically in 10 years. That's why Bush's taxes cuts will expire; you've probably heard talk of 'making the Bush tax cuts permanent'. Of course 'budget related' is relatively ambiguous. Clinton's odious Welfare Reform passed via reconciliation. Since health care costs are such a strain on our federal budget, it's reasonable to pass laws that seek to reduce that strain.)

I don't have any opinion on the tactics of splitting the bills this way. I think it's a joke to think that Republicans will respond positively to this tactic and vote for the less 'controversial' bill. I suspect they'll vote against anything the Democrats put out there, especially when they see that this is a trick to get the full reform passed. But i'm open to anything that gets us health care reform, and i have no insight into whether or not this is the best way.

But it clarifies a key point for me. The WSJ article on the bill split assumes one of two options: either you only have 51 votes, or you have 60 votes. In fact there should be a 3rd option: you don't have 60 votes for final passage but you have enough votes to break a filibuster. In other words, there will be some senators, especially these conservative Democrats like Nelson and Baucus, who won't vote for the bill... but do they really intend to filibuster their own party? Apparently yes.

So why are they Democrats? These Senators are given key committee chairs. We only need 50 Senators to keep Reid as majority leader. Not 60. And if these guys weren't Democrats, we'd have better Dems as committee chairs and we'd be getting better bills out of committee. If they won't vote to break a filibuster, there's no value to keeping them as Dems.

Immediate Update: One problem i see with this tactic is you pass the subsidies for people who can't afford insurance under reconciliation, and you pass the mandates that everyone has to buy insurance the regular way. In 10 years, the subsidies expire, and the Senate is now held by Republicans. They may restore the subsidies at a reduced rate or let them die altogether. And now you've created an impossible burden on those who can't afford insurance.

On a related tangent, I have a major problem with mandates without a public plan in any event, with or without subsidies. Without a public plan, you are simply creating a huge giveaway to insurance companies. You are saying everyone has to buy their product, and the government just pays the insurance companies for the people who can't afford their rates. This does absolutely nothing to reduce costs, and simply provides insurance companies with a captive consumer base (which is actually an incentive to raise prices, since demand is artificially raised).

By fnord12 | August 20, 2009, 9:00 AM | Liberal Outrage