Health care strategery

HEALTH CARE STRATEGERY…. The House Republicans’ vote this week on repealing the entirety of the Affordable Care Act was obviously symbolic. No one, not even House Republicans themselves, expects the repeal bill to go anywhere.

But the House bill won’t just disappear immediately, and the symbolic gesture might turn out to be pretty interesting after all.

Senate Democratic leaders have said they have no intention of wasting time on the House-passed measure, but the Senate Republican minority intends to force the issue. MSNBC reported yesterday that Mitch McConnell “assured” supporters that the chamber would take up the repeal bill, and has procedural options available to force a vote.

Kevin Drum had a creative take yesterday, arguing that Senate Dems’ instincts may be backwards — don’t ignore the House bill, embrace it and make the most of it.

They should bring the House bill up for a vote quickly, let Republicans speechify about it for a bit, and then vote it down, 53-47. End of story, time to move on.

But wait! With Republicans in control of the House, it’s not like the Senate can really get much done anyway. So what’s the harm in wasting a bit of time and making this a knock-down-drag-out fight? After all, the House leadership got a nice, clean repeal vote by bringing up the bill under a closed rule and allowing no potentially embarrassing amendments and virtually no debate. In the Senate, by contrast, Democrats control things, and they can bring up all the amendments they want. So maybe they should play along, hold hearings, and force Republicans to vote on, say, an amendment to the repeal bill that would keep the preexisting condition ban in place. And another one that would keep the donut hole fix in place. Etc. etc.

Jonathan Bernstein, who had a generally positive take on this, noted some of the risks of the amendment strategy, and Senate Dems would be wise to consider them.

That said, as of this morning, it appears there’s some fluidity to the Democratic strategy in the Senate. Whereas the plan earlier in the week was to simply ignore the House Republicans’ repeal bill, there’s apparently a fair amount of interest in pursuing a plan very similar to what Kevin wrote about yesterday.

A top Democratic aide in the Senate told Brian Beutler, “Senior staff are giving serious consideration to the strategy of forcing Republicans to take tough votes on extremely popular elements of the health care law, including the doughnut hole provision, as well as pre-existing conditions.”