THE TREATMENT MARCH 12, 2010
If you were following the news on Thursday, you probably heard about one if not both of these developments:
1) The Senate Parliamentarian issued a ruling, effectively forcing the House to pass the Senate health care bill before the Senate could consider amendments to it. This is, of course, not what the House wants to do.
2) House leadership signaled they were breaking off negotiations with Bart Stupak over abortion. That means Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to minimize the number of Democrats who, as Stupak as promised, vote against the bill because of abortion language--and then convert enough former "no" votes to "yes" to make up the difference.
Neither development is particularly surprising--or, I should say, would be particularly surprising. After a series of conversations Thursday evening, I'm not 100 percent sure either development actually happened exactly as everybody seems to think.
The parliamentarian clearly issued some kind of opinion, which Republican aides shared with reporters and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad shared with his colleagues. But not everybody seems to agree on the details of the opinion and what it would mean.
As for the Stupak situation, key House leaders made clear on Thursday they couldn't change the abortion language via reconciliation. But that's not news. The issue is whether they've given up trying to find some other accommodation with Stupak, perhaps outside the context of health care reform. Some told me the answer was "yes." Others said "no." Either way, it's not as if leadership couldn't revisit that decision later on. (Remember, leadership had hoped to bypass Stupak when the House took up reform in November.)
I'm not questioning any of the media reports, which were sourced explicitly. I'm just saying there's still some ambiguity here, thanks to both confusion and, I'm sure, spin by interested parties.
By the way, if you're not used to that kind of uncertainty already, you should get used to it fast. That's what the next few days and, maybe, weeks are going to be like.
Update: Sure enough, here's a Brian Beutler dispatch from TPM making clear that leadership has not broken off talks with Stupak. And Congressional Quarterly is apparently reporting that the Parliamentarian's "ruling" was misreported. Like I said, get used to this!