The Senate HELP committee held four weeks of markup hearings on their health care bill. They accepted 160 Republican amendments. They allowed virtually every amendment, every concern of Republicans to a free and open vote. And in the end, the bill split entirely along party lines.
A Senate committee became the first congressional panel to advance healthcare reform legislation this year, marking a significant step toward the achievement of President Obama's foremost domestic initiative.
On a party-line, 13-10 tally, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted to move its portion of the upper chamber's healthcare reform legislation to the floor [...]
HELP Committee ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) slammed the bill and the partisan nature of the panel's proceedings. "The bill lays the groundwork for a government takeover of healthcare," Enzi said.
I don't know how many times you have to say this. Republicans will not vote for health care reform. If so much as one of them does, I would be stunned. And it appears that the political staff in the White House understands this as well.
Both Axelrod and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said taking a partisan route to enacting major health-care legislation isn’t the president’s preferred choice. Yet in separate interviews, each man left that option open.
“We’d like to do it with the votes of members of both parties,” Axelrod said. “But the worst result would be to not get health-care reform done.” [...]
Emanuel, making a theoretical case for a party-line vote, offered a definition of bipartisanship based not on roll-call votes but on whether Democrats have accepted Republican ideas during the process of negotiations.
He said Democrats already have passed that test, pointing to Republican amendments that the Democratic-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has adopted.
“That’s a test of bipartisanship -- whether you took ideas from both parties,” Emanuel said. “At the end of the day, the test isn’t whether they voted for it,” he said, referring to Republicans. “The test is whether the final product represented some of their ideas. And I think it will.”
Now Republicans will stick out their pinkies and rattle their teacups about the shocking partisanship on display, and whine about how they've been shut out of the process. But they would always say that, and predictably, it's not true.
This is the right approach, and now the President needs to collect the votes necessary for passage. Organizing for America released an ad today that will air in key states, targeting moderate Democrats and a few moderate Republicans, and imploring them to get health care done. It has no specifics, but collects a series of health care horror stories and shows the broken nature of the current system.
This will be the toughest lift of the Obama Presidency, but if he really wants it, he can get it done.
...Here's the acting chair of the HELP Committee, Chris Dodd, offering to accept 64 amendments by unanimous consent, but the Republican leader refuses to allow it in an effort to drag out the process. This is the minority's entire raison d'etre on this bill.