‘Delay, define and derail’

‘DELAY, DEFINE AND DERAIL’…. Roll Call reports today on what we can expect to see from the Senate GOP caucus as the debate over health care reform enters the final stretch.

Senate Republicans, acknowledging they lack the votes to block a health care reform bill outright, have implemented a comprehensive political strategy to delay, define and derail. […]

Senate Democrats are rejecting Republicans’ demands to slow things down, charging that the GOP isn’t interested in working with the majority to craft a bipartisan health care bill. Rather, Reid said repeatedly last week, the Republicans’ primary goal is to sink reform in order to undercut President Barack Obama.

It seems safe to say, then, that the Republican strategy for the next several weeks is identical to the strategy of the last several months. As long as the majority appreciates the tactics for what they are, the process will proceed nicely. (In late July, Harry Reid told reporters, “Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.” We probably won’t hear that one again.)

Of particular interest in the Roll Call piece, however, was a take on GOP expectations.

Earlier in the year, Republicans were hoping that Democratic divisions would do to Obama’s health care agenda what the GOP can’t, but they no longer expect moderate Democrats to stand in the way of passage — even one that includes a public insurance option.

Now, the piece didn’t attribute a specific quote to anyone on this, but if it’s true, it’s extremely encouraging. Indeed, at this point, it’s the single most important procedural angle to the larger debate: will members of the Democratic caucus side with Republicans and block consideration of the bill. This article suggests Republicans expect all 60 members of the majority caucus to, at a minimum, let the bill come up for an up-or-down vote.

This echoes an observation Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) made last week: “No Democrat wants to be on the wrong side of history and vote on a procedural vote to kill the most important domestic vote of their careers.”

All the more reason to bring as strong a bill as possible to the floor.