Open to persuasion

OPEN TO PERSUASION…. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi approached her caucus last week about possibly approving the Senate’s health care reform bill, she heard more than a little resistance from House Democrats. Are they still open to persuasion?

Obviously, I hope so, and have written a strategy memo to make my case. But in the meantime, Greg Sargent reports that aides in both chambers still believe a breakthrough is possible, if enough House Dems believe that fixing the Senate bill through reconciliation “is procedurally realistic.”

This gets at an aspect of this whole discussion that’s been lost in the noise. Specifically, there’s good reason for many House Dems to say right now that they can’t vote for the Senate bill, even if it includes a “reconciliation fix”: The leadership has not persuasively made the case — yet — that such a fix can actually work.

Dem leaders on both sides are feverishly exploring a range of options, one of which includes drawing up a series of fixes to the Senate bill that would be passed through the Senate via reconciliation along with the Senate bill passing the House — the reconciliation “sidecar,” as it has been called.

Aides on both sides think that House Dems might be persuaded to support this route if the procedural ins-and-outs are laid out for them convincingly in, say, a document. After all, why declare support for this course of action before this case is made?

That is an important point. By all accounts, several House Dems are looking to make a deal — they’ll support a reform bill they don’t really like, and in exchange, they’ll get some improvements to the bill (which were largely already negotiated before a certain recent special election) through reconciliation.

There’s clearly some trust issues with the other chamber playing out here, but there’s also just regular ol’ negotiations at play — the House doesn’t want to give up its leverage, endorsing the Senate bill without knowing exactly what’s being offered in return. They are, in effect, waiting for a piece of paper.

The gamble is serious — if the negotiations stumble, reform dies, the nation suffers, and Dems are completely screwed. But there’s obviously a logic behind the tactics, and reason to at least hope (a little) that progress is possible.