Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tiny Steps, Almost Real

Save yourself from eyestrain over the new CBO scoring of the Baucus bill. For all the analysis, all that matters here is that it's a green light to get through the committee vote. After that, the merged bill (with the HELP committee bill) will certainly be different enough that it's not worth bothering with the details. What matters is that Baucus did what he said he'd do: he got a bill through committee (although we don't yet know whether he's going to get 12, 13, or 14 votes, but the CBO score was the last hurdle remaining at the committee level). As Ezra Klein says: "This is, in other words, not the final score, or the final bill. It's just this week's score, and this week's bill."

Getting through Senate Finance is in fact a major event, but we've known that was a done deal for a while now -- if the numbers had come back screwy, it's pretty clear to me that there was a committee majority willing to add or subtract things to get the bill over the hump. In fact, the committee voting revealed that Baucus was determined to keep the bill safe for the next round, and that he had the votes to do so.

As Jonathan Chait said yesterday, it's now pretty clear that all 60 Democrats in the Senate (and somewhere safely north of 218 Dems in the House) want a bill to pass, and that there exists at least one possible bill that can get the votes. That doesn't make it a done deal, however; there are a lot of important provisions still to be hammered out, and floor voting (especially in the Senate) leaves plenty of room for mischief -- especially since some people who want a bill to pass may not want to vote for it. For those who want a bill to pass, the news continues to be so far, so good, but we're not there yet.

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