Where Are The Votes?

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I think Nate Silver's decimation of the reconciliation dodge is definitive. Granted, I roughly share his ideological priorities, and as a result I don't think there's a very serious argument the bill doesn't improve the status quo (and any such argument would apparently have to rely on some pretty reactionary propositions, such as "compensation in the form of health care should be permanently exempt from taxation.") So any argument for blowing up this bill does indeed have to rely on claims that a better bill could be obtained through reconciliation. Which seems implausible in the extreme. As I see it, the key points:

  • There's no way that there's even 50 votes for a public option sufficiently robust to be worth risking the bill's regulate-and-subsidy provisions over.
  • Once you consider the lost votes of Feingold and Byrd -- as well as God knows how many centrist wankers who would use reconciliation, and the threat is poses to their leverage, as a pretext to vote nay -- it's not even obvious that there are 50 votes for a weak public option through reconciliation.
The bottom line is that holding out hope for a better bill through reconcilation is to fundamentally misunderstand the politics of the situation. The fact that pre-existing majoritarian Senate rules would probably result in a better bill most certainly doesn't mean that using reconciliation would result in a better bill -- many Senators have a vested interest in the existing rules. So killing the bill in the hope of reconciliation would almost certainly make the rest of the bill much worse, and at best would result in a weak public option in exchange. As a percentage move, this would be roughly akin to having Babe Ruth circa 1923 bunt with a runner on second down three runs. It may be true that the threat of reconciliation could have led to a better bill, but I doubt it for these reasons -- especially once Feingold made it clear that he wouldn't play ball, I don't think either conservative Democrats or Republicans would have viewed the threat as credible.

At any rate, the only reason to oppose the bill is if you think it's worse than the status quo on the merits. The rest is ice cream castles in the air.


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