Sunday, November 8, 2009

Can the Dems muster supermajorities for ObamaCare in a Senate guarded by Blue Dogs

The Democrats wheedled, cajoled, begged, and finally abandoned its defense of abortion — truly a watershed moment — in order to get their version of ObamaCare passed … in the House of Representatives, where they enjoy a 75-seat majority. In the end, they could only muster a five-vote win on Nancy Pelosi’s bill out of that strong majority. Until this week, most had assumed that any ObamaCare bill would pass the House easily, but that the fight would be in the Senate.

So what does this 220-215 vote tell us? Capitol Hill Democrats know that this bill is an albatross. It’s true that Pelosi was able at the end to negotiate votes to allow a few at-risk Democrats that supported the bill to oppose it in the final vote, but even that tells a tale of fear and consciousness of unpopularity. The razor-thin vote, as well as a number of earlier, more sincere defections, show that this bill was a radical and expensive approach to fix a 13% problem — and even most of the Democrats know it.

Now the focus swings to the Senate, where Harry Reid will have to gain supermajorities at least twice to allow the bill to proceed to a final vote. That seems unlikely, although not impossible. The process will slow down considerably from the jam-down Pelosi conducted in the lower chamber, perhaps even to a crawl if Tom Coburn makes good on his threat to have the bill read in its entirety on the Senate floor. That will leave plenty of time for ObamaCare opponents to find all of the taxes, mandates, and government intrusions that will make it even less popular as it sits in the Senate. Even before Coburn’s threat, Democrats had pushed expectations for the bill out to late January — which makes the politics of the bill even more fraught for Democrats, at the start of an election year.

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