Jonathan Chait is back, and he has a good post on reconciliation...except for one important point:
The Democrats aren't going to pass health care through reconciliation.
They are going to pass health care through a regular bill, the bill that passed the Senate with 60 votes.
What they are going to do next is improve health care with a reconciliation bill: pass-and-patch. As I said yesterday, however, if House Democrats are smart they'll get the first bill passed as soon as possible. Yes, House Dems feel that they've been screwed over by the Senate numerous times, whether it was the BTU tax way back in 1993 or cap-and-trade in 2009. They're understandably gun-shy.
But the parliamentary situation this time around is different, and they need to see that. Ben Nelson has given them, as George Costanza would say, hand. I talked about this yesterday, but I want to reemphasize how important it is to realize how much it changes the game once the (Senate) bill is signed into law. All of a sudden, the Senate Democrats are stuck with a law they supported, complete with Nelson's deal and all the rest of it.
And then -- here comes the House with a new bill -- not a bill to set up a new health care system, but a patch on a system that's already the law of the land. A bill that does lots and lots of popular things (taxes on the rich, get rid of lifetime caps, repeal the Nelson deal), and few if any unpopular things. Republicans can filibuster it all they want. They'll be the ones protecting the Nelson deal, the excise tax, lifetime caps and the other things that the patch will change. True, they may do that anyway; they certainly would complain about the procedure. But that should be a fight that even moderate Senate Democrats would be glad to take on. They wouldn't be defending the (old) bill they already passed; they would be fixing it!
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that passing the Senate bill is the game-changer. Now, granted, that vote is a tricky one, especially for any House Dem who previously opposed the House version of the bill. But for anyone who is already on the hook for health care reform (because they voted for the House bill), and for anyone who just wants the thing to get done, the best move is to just go ahead and pass the bill, then send a reconciliation bill to the Senate and watch what happens. I said yesterday that it was going to take a leap of faith by the House, but the more I think about it it's not much of a leap at all.