Still hoping to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat

STILL HOPING TO SNATCH VICTORY FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT…. As recently as Thursday, there was every reason to believe that health care reform was simply not going to happen. Democratic policymakers, stunned by the results in Massachusetts, were simply unwilling to keep fighting.

But as the shock wore off, and Dems began to realize the consequences of failure, the desire to move forward made a comeback. There’s still a very real possibility that the effort will fail and reform will, once again, come up short. But at least officials are still trying.

Democratic congressional leaders are coalescing around their last hope for salvaging President Obama’s sweeping health care overhaul — legislation that has produced growing angst among consumers in a new poll.

Their plan is to pass the Senate bill with some changes to accommodate House Democrats, senior Democratic aides said Monday. The procedural route — known as reconciliation — would allow a majority of 51 senators to amend their bill to address some of the major substantive concerns raised by the House. That would circumvent the need for a 60-vote majority to hold off Republican delaying tactics.

Leaders will present the idea to the rank and file this week, but it’s unclear whether they have enough votes to carry it out.

TPM reports this morning that congressional leaders will “continue to work toward a grand bargain: House and Senate leaders will huddle today at 4 p.m., House Democratic leadership will meet at 5 p.m. and then House leadership will hold a caucus meeting with rank-and-file members at 7 p.m.”

It should be an important day.

In the meantime, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who just loved reconciliation in the Bush era, has said he and other Republicans would fight any and all efforts to modify the health care reform bill through the reconciliation process. “We would make it an extraordinarily difficult exercise,” Gregg said.

Stay tuned.