Although the left has been celebrating the passage of Obamacare in the Senate as further evidence that the President’s health care reform initiative is a done deal the health care reform fight is not over. The truth is that this bill can not yet be transmitted to the President until very different versions of Obamacare are reconciled. The House and Senate must agree on what to send to the President for his signature before this fight is over.
There are key differences between the House and Senate approaches to Obamacare as explained by Nina Owcharenko and Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D. in a paper published by the Heritage Foundation lists 6 key differences between the two bills. Procedurally, the House passed a version of Obamacare with a public option, an income surtax and with strong language forbidding the use of federal monies to fund abortion. The Senate chose not to take up the House bill and passed a version of Obamacare with no public option, taxes on expensive health care plans and with weak language forbidding the use of federal funds for abortion. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have since blocked the appointment of conferees to reconcile the differing versions of Obamacare. The options liberals have to get the bill to the President’s desk are therefore limited.
The Senate refused to take up the House bill and many claimed that the House bill was dead on arrival in the Senate. Presumably the Senate bill can’t pass the House, because of the more liberal abortion language, the radically different tax provisions and the lack of a public option. That leaves a so called “ping-pong” strategy where the House can either take up and pass the Senate version of Obamacare or they can take up the Senate bill, amend it, then send it back to the Senate. The Senate would then have the same option: take up and pass or amend and send back to the House. This ping-pong between chambers can happen a few times before the issue loses steam or the bill gets sent back and forth too many times to comply with the rules of the House and Senate.
Don’t forget that the American people absolutely hate this bill. Owcharenko and Moffit write “even if concessions and compromises can be made between the Senate and House versions, public opinion is solidifying against the legislation. A recent Rasmussen poll found that only 34 percent of voters say passing a health care bill is better than doing nothing. This is on the heels of a CNN poll that found 61 percent opposed to the bill and a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found that only 32 percent think the health care bills are a “good idea.” Even though both the House and Senate have passed very unpopular bills, it is possible that some of these members will actually listen to their constituents and realize that support for this initiative may be the functional equivalent of political suicide.
Any way you slice it, Obamacare still has a difficult path to the President’s desk, because either the Senate or the House will have to back away from their position on important issues. The liberals are 75% down the road to government control of health care, yet they still need to make it that last 25% of the way. For those who have given up hope, you may be correct to say that this is a done deal, but many Members of Congress would have to back away from strong policy stands on the public option, taxes on health care plans, and abortion for Obamacare to get to President Obama’s desk in time for a victory lap at his State of the Union speech.