Posted on September 16, 2009
I see now why the House went through with its rebuke of Joe Wilson. It was trying to distract the country from the health care disaster that is embroiling the Senate.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has been given an impossible job: Come up with a health care bill that will get enough vote to pass his Committee.
He has tried hard to reach out to Republicans, knowing that a bipartisan bill is the best way to get something out of his Committee. But the well has been poisoned by the work of other Committees, making it politically suicidal for any Republican to agree to vote for anything that looks like the Senate HELP bill or the bad bills that have been produced by the House.
Without Republicans, Senate Finance Democrats like Kent Conrad, Blanche Lincoln, Bill Nelson and Tom Carper will find it very hard to get enough cover to avert their own political disaster. That means that Baucus is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
His latest Chairman’s mark makes nobody happy, which means it probably won’t pass Committee. And that means that Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to bring a different bill up, probably through the Reconciliation process.
Reconciliation means that Reid only needs 50 votes to get a bill through the Senate. But there are some complications. He will have to navigate parliamentary points of order that require 60 votes for provisions that don’t directly impact revenue. That means that at the end of the day, the legislation could be stripped free of everything except for the tax increases and the Medicare cuts.
I would love to see Senate Democrats vote for a package that contains only tax increases and Medicare cuts. Not sure Harry Reid could survive a vote like that back home.
In any event, the situation in the Senate is perilous for the Democrats. They are getting intense pressure from the left to pass a big health care reform package, and intense pressure from the center and the right to do no such thing.
Perhaps that is why House Democrats put the Wilson resolution on the floor. Have the media spend a couple of days talking about how Republicans and their supporters are a bunch of racists, and see if that makes it any easier for the Senate to pass a health care bill.
Oh, and of course, there is another reason the House Democrats brought this up. They have nothing else to do. They can’t pass their own health care bill, they don’t have any good ideas on job creation, and they don’t have anything of any import to work on.
The Joe Wilson affair was a welcome distraction for Congressional Democrats. I doubt it will help them get out of their health care morass though.