Thursday, March 25, 2010

How Healthcare Reform Can Still Hurt Senate Democrats

Summary: Democrats in the upper chamber will have to defend some indefensible votes this November.

As you may have heard by now, the healthcare reconciliation bill will have to go back to the House of Representatives. The fear among proponents of the bill was that Senate Republicans would offer amendments that Democrats could not pass up, which would automatically mean it would need to go back to the House for approval.

What actually happened: the Republicans won on a point of order at 3:00 AM this morning using a parliamentary rule that by necessity changes the bill in question. Democrats have thus far been resilient to resist tempting amendments.

This means that little in the bill changes, it will likely be passed about an hour from now, and be approved by the House later tonight. President Obama will then likely sign this last piece of healthcare legislation in to law by next week.

And as we mentioned Monday, healthcare reform success should help Democrats in the midterm elections this November.

At least in the House - the Senate may be a different story.

So far the Senate GOP has introduced no less than 146 amendments to the reconciliation bill that Democrats have had to vote against to guarantee swift passage. They’ve been steadfast, but it comes at a price.

Among some of the amendments:

S.AMDT.3556 - Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced an amendment “prohibiting coverage of Viagra for child molesters and rapists” under the government’s health insurance exchange.

S.AMDT.3639 - Senator John Thune (R-SD) introduced an amendment to “ensure that no State experiences a net job loss as a result of” healthcare reform.

S.AMDT.3564 - Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced an amendment that guarantees “the President, Cabinet Members, all White House Senior staff and Congressional Committee and Leadership Staff are purchasing health insurance through the health insurance exchanges” established in the overhaul.

Now who would disagree with these measures?

Most people wouldn’t. And that’s exactly the point. Republicans are making sure that Democrats have to choose between a rock and a hard place.

The rock: the healthcare bill faces a tougher time getting passed.

The hard place: Democratic Senators at risk in 2010 have to face attack ads that say “Senator So-and-So voted to give rapists Viagra at the taxpayer’s expense.”

The hard place is a lot more important.

According to Nate Silver’s most recent Senate Forecast, there’s more than a 50% chance that the Democrats will lose at least 5 Senate seats this year. There’s even some chance - albeit, a small one - that they could lose the majority.

Protecting our at-risk incumbents would be a lot easier if they didn’t have to make some of these votes.

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