25 Mar 2010

Castro Congratulated Obama Too Soon

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As HuffPo explains, it’s back to the House, where Pandora’s Box opens again.

Senate Republicans succeeded early Thursday morning in finding two flaws in the House-passed health care reconciliation package. Neither is of any substance, but the Senate parliamentarian informed Democratic leaders that both are in violation of the Byrd Rule.

One is related to Pell Grants and the other makes small technical corrections. Why they’re in violation of the Byrd Rule doesn’t matter; the upshot is that Republicans will succeed in at least slightly altering the legislation, which means that the House is once again required to vote on it. With no substantial changes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should have little problem assembling the same coalition of 220 Democrats who passed the measure Sunday night. That’s already four more than the minimum 216 required for passage.

But the ruling might give Democrats another option — the public one.

Democratic leadership no longer has to worry that additional amendments would send it back to the House, since it must return to the lower chamber regardless. The Senate is now free to put to the test that much-debated question of whether 50 votes exist for a public option. Democrats could also elect to expand Medicare or Medicaid, now that they only need 50 votes in the Senate and the approval of the House.

The question then becomes whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could pass the reconciliation changes with a public option. She has long maintained that the House has the votes to do so. Indeed, it did so in late 2009. Since then, however, two members who supported the public option are no longer in the House. But with fewer members, the House also needs two fewer votes than the 218 required for a majority in November, alleviating some of that pressure.

Would they have the votes?

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