Evan Bayh

For Democrats to pass health care reform, which has already passed the House and Senate, they merely need the House to pass the Senate pass and then have both houses pass a budget reconciliation measure to iron out the outstanding disagreements. The view in official Washington, however, is that this would be Wrong.

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By sheer luck, I think I picked a fairly good time to go on vacation. Mainly what I missed is a bout of hysteria and elected Democrats coming around to the obvious. Last Wednesday, in the wake of the Coakley fiasco, I predicted that health care reform remained a better-than-even bet: Here is what I think will happen. The shock and panic will play itself out over a few days. Then the Democrats will assess the situation and realize that letting health care die represents their worst possible option. And then they will make a deal to pass the Senate bill through the House.

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Centrist Democrats in the Senate are coming out, one by one, against the possibility of using reconciliation to pass health care reform. Here's Evan Bayh's explanation, via Politico: Just ramming through a bill on a purely party-line vote on a strictly partisan basis will not do much to generate the kind of progress around here on other issues that we need. We need to focus on things where we have a consensus. Perhaps Bayh has forgotten, but the Senate already passed health care reform on a strictly partisan basis.

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After Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts, everyone's been pondering the fate of health care reform. But to gaze even further ahead, where does this leave climate and energy legislation? Is that just going to get scrapped?

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Rep. Anthony Weiner has been a uniquely valuable voice on health care over the last few months--pushing for the best possible bill, complete with a public option, but also embracing a compromise when it was the only available option. That makes his performance tonight all the more mystifying--and disappointing. The future of health care reform rests entirely on the sentiments of rank-in-file Democrats.

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Trenchant political analysis, from Senator Evan Bayh: If you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope of waking up. ... It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message. They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems.  That’s something that has to be corrected. ... The only we are able to govern successfully in this country is by liberals and progressives making common cause with independents and moderates.

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Hot Seat

Democrats in Congress have a lot to juggle in the year ahead. If they want to avoid a slaughter at the polls, they’ll need to boost job growth. Not only that, but Wall Street remains poorly regulated, and key allies are growing impatient for labor-law and immigration reform. So it’s hardly a shock to hear that some Dems would prefer to set aside tackling climate change--especially so soon after a grueling health care fight.

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If negotiations over health care reform get to conference between the House and Senate--no jinxing here--controversial issues like abortion and funding are going to get the most attention. And, precisely because the issues evoke such strong feelings, coming to agreement on them will be relatively difficult. But there are myriad issues more amenable to compromise because they are lower profile. And, in some cases, they have the potential to improve the bill significantly. Among them is what’s come to be known as the “choice initiative,” whose chief advocate is Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

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The United States is on the doorstep of comprehensive health care reform. It's a staggering achievement, about which I'll have more to say later. but the under-appreciated thing that strikes me at the moment is that it never would have happened if the Republican Party had played its cards right. At the outset of this debate, moderate Democrats were desperate for a bipartisan bill. They were willing to do almost anything to get it, including negotiate fruitlessly for months on end.

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Conservatives like to quip that, for the average member of Congress, spending other people’s money is the best part of the job. If that’s true, then grilling the Fed chairman after a financial crisis has to rank a close second. The members of the Senate Banking Committee didn't hold back when Ben Bernanke made his case for a second term on Thursday.

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