Pressure on the upper chamber

PRESSURE ON THE UPPER CHAMBER…. The chances of health care reform passing the House look a whole lot better today than they did last week. At this point, a good bill has passed the House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee. Thanks to today’s developments, success with the Energy and Commerce Committee seems fairly likely before the end of the week.

There’s obviously still a long distance between passing these three committees and a signing ceremony at the White House, but it’s worth appreciating the fact that we’ve never been anywhere near this close to passing health care reform. The House has never even had a floor vote on this, and now, one seems very likely.

Ezra Klein had an interesting item the other day about the “gamechanger” that occurs when (if?) the House actually approves a reform bill.

After all, that has never happened before. In 1994, Bill Clinton’s plan didn’t survive long enough to see a vote. Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Harry Truman weren’t any luckier. Obama is likely to not only see a vote in the House, but win it. And that gives him more than just bragging rights. It will put tremendous pressure on the Senate to follow suit.

After all, it’s one thing for health-care reform to die. it’s wholly another for Senate Democrats to kill it. They don’t want that. In particular, Harry Reid doesn’t want that. His place in the leadership — not to mention history — might not be able to survive that. And the few key senators who would stand in the way of reform might rethink their position in a world where blame isn’t diffuse, and where the White House will know exactly who murdered their top legislative priority.

Quite right. There’s reason for at least some optimism that the House — with enough Blue Dogs on board — will pass a bill after the August recess. At that point, the only thing standing between the status quo and a reform plan that’s been sought after since the days of Truman is a Senate with a 60-seat Democratic majority.

Under those circumstances, and facing that pressure, how much weight should Chuck Grassley’s and Mike Enzi’s demands carry? What are the chances that center-right Dems (Nelson, Bayh, Lieberman, Landrieu, et al) would deny reform an up-or-down vote by siding with Republicans on a filibuster?

If the process continues as it should, we’ll find out soon enough.