How does Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) plan to move Obamacare past the House, despite some highly-controversial, lingering issues? Clues are beginning to appear in the progressive blogosphere:
- Firedoglake is reporting that Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) is returning to Washington this week to begin closed-door negotiations with Senate Democrats and the White House. From FDL: “Discussions are beginning early on the health care bill, although the House is not returning to session until January 12, and the Senate not until a week later. This will not be a traditional conference committee, Waxman said, because the motions to select and instruct conferees in the Senate “would need 60 votes all over again.” Instead, whatever agreements made could be packaged in an amendment to the bills passed by the House and Senate.”
- The New Republic reports that “according to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are ‘almost certain’ to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee. Doing so would allow Democrats to avoid a series of procedural steps–not least among them, a series of special motions in the Senate, each requiring a vote with full debate–that Republicans could use to stall deliberations, just as they did in November and December.”
- TPMDC reports: “‘This process cuts out the Republicans,’ said a House Democratic aide. Republicans will ‘not have a motion to recommit opportunity’–a procedural trick the minority can use to scuttle legislation in the House at the last minute.”
These secret meetings will not be a “traditional conference committee,” nor will they be a conference committee in any sense of the term. The only individuals allowed in the room will be those invited by both the House and Senate Leadership. Why the secrecy? Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) want to be sure they can secure the votes they need to pass the bill again.
These developments confirm what we have been reporting for some time now: the House will ping pong Obamacare back to the Senate in order to avoid as many 60-vote thresholds as possible. This allows Democrats to exclude Republicans and problematic members of the Democrat Caucus from informal meetings. It also shows that the leadership in Washington is doing everything in their power to avoid a Conference Committee that could be broadcast on C-SPAN. In other words, they don’t want the public to see the work they’re doing on the floor of Congress (which was done with the public proceedings on the President’s so called Stimulus plan).
However, unless the House just accepts the Senate bill as is, the Democrat leadership still have to face at least one more 60-vote threshold in the Senate. That’s a high hurdle for them to overcome.