Clyburn says reform deal still possible

CLYBURN SAYS REFORM DEAL STILL POSSIBLE…. It’s a fairly big day for the fate of health care reform, and the Democratic leadership from both chambers are scheduled to get together for a chat in just a few minutes, in advance of a House caucus meeting this evening.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) remarks this afternoon offer at least a small ray of hope that success is still possible.

An influential House Democrat is now predicting that House Dems will pass the Senate bill if they are persuaded they have a guarantee that it will be fixed in reconciliation — a declaration that could give a boost of momentum for the prospects of getting reform done via this route.

In an interview with [Sargent], House majority whip James Clyburn also urged the President to throw his weight behind this approach during tomorrow’s State of the Union Address, declaring that it would be “helpful.”

The comments from Clyburn — who’s been canvassing opinion from members in recent days — could contribute to a growing sense that this is course of action most likely to succeed, and could give ammo to those pressing this case.

“I feel certain that the House Democrats will pass health care reform if the fixes that we feel need to be made to the Senate bill are guaranteed,” Clyburn said. Asked directly if the House votes would be there if this happened, Clyburn said: “Yes, sir.”

OK, so health care reform becomes law if the House gets assurances from the Senate about improvements through reconciliation. That means at least 50 Senate Democrats have to be on board with accepting changes — which, by the way, they were already on board with 10 days ago in the midst of White House negotiations.

This afternoon, three center-right Senate Dems — Evan Bayh (Ind.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), and Ben Nelson (Neb.) — all said they’d rather see health care reform die. But with a 59-member caucus, the leadership has votes to spare, and these three simply aren’t in a position to derail this once-in-a-generation opportunity — unless they pick up six allies from the caucus. (If we assume Lieberman and Landrieu join them, they’d still need four more.)

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said there’s “no rush” to complete the process. I strongly disagree. The debate that began in earnest 10 months ago has run its course, and the public is clearly ready to see Democrats pivot to other issues. Months of negotiations and machinations will only breed additional frustrations — especially when a victory for the ages is one vote away.

Besides, giving opponents of reform more time to undermine public support and trash necessary legislation hasn’t worked up until now; it’s unlikely to be effective if policymakers tolerate additional delays.

With that in mind: Pass. The. Damn. Bill.