Jonathan Chait

More Utterly Sincere Advice For Democrats From The GOP

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Since the House Democrats are the people who hold decision making power over the future of health care reform, Republicans who want to defeat health care reform have tailored their arguments to appeal to those Democrats. Mostly this has consisted of Republicans advising Democrats that letting health care reform die, and thus having failure being the defining memory of this Congress, is their best path to success in the November elections.

Lately, a new line of obviously sincere advice is emerging: Republicans are urging Democrats in the House not to trust Democrats in the Senate:

Gregg, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, suggested that President Barack Obama may back off making changes to the Senate bill through the reconciliation process, which the White House and the Senate have said they would use to make changes to the Senate bill in order to placate House members.

"They're using reconciliation to pass the great big bill," Gregg said during an appearance on CNBC. "Once they pass the great big bill, I wouldn't be surprised if the White House didn't care if reconciliation passed. I mean, why would they?"

Former Bush administration health care speechwriter Jeffrey Anderson agrees:

Senators want nothing to do with “reconciliation” whether politically or for what it would do to their chamber and they already like their own bill (which the House would then already have passed) just fine.  The President would then already have gotten a bill through both chambers, and while House members would complain powerlessly, he would dip his pen in the ink and visualize himself in the history books.  He might even try to score a few extra political points by saying, As you know, we intended to use the reconciliation process to make a few small changes to the Senate bill.  While I know that there was some disagreement from some people, I think that that process would have been entirely appropriate to pursue.  But some people are uncomfortable with it, and I think that’s a legitimate concern.  It’s important to remember that our democratic institutions deserve the benefit of the doubt.  Also, the American people understandably think that we’ve been focused on health care long enough.  So that’s why I am making the decision not to pursue “reconciliation.”  Instead, I am moving on to a jobs bill….

This isn't just obviously disingenuous, it's silly. The Democratic plan is to have the House pass the Senate bill, and then use a follow-up reconciliation bill to enact changes demanded by House Democrats. Now, it's true that the Obama administration achieves its policy goals once the House passes the Senate bill, and doesn't need a follow-up reconciliation bill except insofar as it's necessary to guarantee House passage. But the reconciliation bill is going to consist of a lot of popular provisions that Democrats will be eager to vote for -- canceling the Cornhusker Kickback, boosting middle-class tax credits, delaying the excise tax and instead raising taxes on the rich.

Moreover, the House is only going to pass the Senate bill first if it gets ironclad assurance on the reconciliation bill from the administration and the Senate. Why would Obama and the Senate nakedly double cross the House? It would mean never being able to pass a piece of legislation again. The reputations of the double-crossers would be destroyed, both inside Washington and, to a lesser extent, nationally. No remotely rational politician, no matter how evil, would do something like that.

Can't Republicans just make substantive arguments that they believe, instead of concocting fantastical scenarios that they think will appeal to House Democrats?

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