Work continues behind the scenes

WORK CONTINUES BEHIND THE SCENES…. Is there enough support in the House to pass the Senate health care reform bill? By every measure, not yet. In fact, Newsweek reports that the Democratic leadership isn’t just short of a majority, they’re “way short.”

That’s the bad news. The good news is they’re still working on it. (via Kevin Drum)

For now, senior lawmakers are working the phones furiously to talk up the idea of the Senate promising to retroactively unravel several distasteful components. If House Democrats make the good-faith deal, Pelosi is arguing that the Senate promise would be easy to keep. Reconciliation votes require only a 51-vote majority. Or even 50, in which case Vice President Biden could break the tie.

This aide says that leadership considers reconciliation, with the House conditioning its support on promised fixes in the Senate, as the much more strategic route than breaking the package into parts, which isn’t ideal because all of the parts are interlocking. Asked what the timetable would be for that, this aide says weeks, not months.

I’m not getting my hopes up, but this at least suggests some of the Powers That Be are considering the right solution.

It’s not that complicated — the House passes the Senate bill, the Senate agrees to approve key changes through reconciliation, and the White House keeps the players together. Everyone wins (except insurance companies and the Republican Party).

So, what’s in the Senate version that would need to come out? The House wants a deal on the excise-tax financing, which shouldn’t be too difficult since a compromise was reached nearly two weeks ago. The House also wants to see the “Cornhusker Kickback” scuttled, which also should be fairly straightforward — the measure was necessary to bribe win over Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and even he’s not willing to stand by his ransom anymore.

There’s been a lot of pressure on the House to pass the Senate bill, and for good reason. But the sooner the Senate steps up and extends meaningful assurances to the House about clear-cut changes that can be made — and can’t be filibustered — the sooner policymakers can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.