Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rally time!

As far as Republicans are concerned, it's already over: the GOP will gain control of both Houses of Congress in 2010. Certainly, current polls do show that the House is in play, and that the Senate could be if everything continues to break the GOP's way.

In a stunning development, Congressional Democrats seem to have stumbled on a possible solution to their problem: actually keeping some of their campaign promises!

We may yet see a jobs bill in 2010. Huge strides in the war in Afghanistan show progress towards the exit strategy Democrats have been demanding. (For a short list of Democratic campaign promises that will probably never be kept, see this Think Progress post.) But here's the big news: health care reform, with the public option, is back.

Democrats will attempt to pass an updated version of the health care reform bill in the Senate through the process known as reconciliation, in which a contentious budget bill can be passed with only 51 votes and not be subject to possible filibuster by the minority party. Republicans are feigning shock that Democrats would resort to using the reconciliation process to bypass the GOP's filibuster-everything policy, but of course when they themselves had a small majority in the Senate, the Republican caucus used reconciliation to pass major legislation all the time. For example, they used it to pass Bush's tax cuts for the rich in 2001 and 2003, the result of which is a loss of $2.3 trillion in revenue in the first decade following their passage.

The importance of putting the public option back on the table cannot be overstated. A 2009 poll showed public support for health care reform with a public option at 77%, while a recent poll showed only 44% support for the current, public-option-free version of health care reform that was on the verge of passage before Senator Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts took away Democrats' filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate.

If Democrats can take advantage of this last, best chance to pass health care reform, I firmly believe it will be a real shot in the arm for them come this fall's elections. At the same time, it will be a stunner for conservatives who thought that they had already buried health care reform for yet another generation. As Jonathan Chait of The New Republic notes:

"You can imagine how this feels to conservatives. They've already run off the field, sprayed themselves with champagne and taunted the losing team's fans. And now the other team is saying the game is still on and they have a good chance to win. There may be nothing wrong at all with the process, but it's certainly going to feel like some kind of crime to the right-wing. The Democrats may not win, but I'm pretty sure they're going to try. The conservative freakout is going to be something to behold."

This week, the White House will publish its final vision for health care refom. On Thursday, Obama will invite congressional leaders from both parties to Blair House for a half-day meeting. There, he will describe and advocate for his proposal, then offer Republicans to do the same. And that meeting may well be what decides what happens. Let's go!

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