Democrats aim to “pledge and pass” health care reform bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama today delivered what may be his final plea for Congress to pass health care reform, imploring lawmakers to hold an “up-or-down vote” on legislation “in the next few weeks” — using a strategy outlined last month by Sen. Al Franken.

“I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform,” Obama said today. His speech acted as a closing argument, summing up both his reasons for wanting to pass a health care bill and his desire for a “final vote”, rather than additional discussion.

Franken called the strategy “pledge and pass” — have the Senate show it has the votes to pass a “fix” through reconciliation (requiring only 51 votes), get the House to pass the Senate’s bill, then pass the fix. According to multiple reports, the goal is to have it all done by Easter.

To do that, House Democrats will have to walk a tight line within their own caucus, ensuring that progressives who wanted a much stronger bill initially are happy enough with compromise legislation that Blue Dog centrists can also support.

“We’re going to get it done,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, one such progressive. “I don’t mind voting technically for a Senate bill as long as I know it’s not going to be the way it winds up.”

Ellison, a long-time supporter of a public option, said he hasn’t given up on that despite it not featuring in either the Senate’s bill or Obama’s compromise plan. Ellison said he will continue his push for the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on the public option and noted that 34 senators now are on record as saying they’d vote for some kid of public option if it came up – including both Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Franken.

With or without a public option, Democrats will have a tough fight to flip any votes in the House.

The only Gopher State Democrat to oppose the House’s health care bill, Collin Peterson, remains a no vote on both the Senate bill and the president’s compromise plan.

Neither John Kline, Michele Bachmann nor Erik Paulsen voted for the House health care bill and were also unanimously opposed to the Senate’s bill. Indeed no House Republican has said they’ll back this latest version of health care reform – and the only Republican to vote in favor of the House bill, Louisiana’s Anh “Joseph” Cao, has said he’ll be a no vote this time around.

“To me, it’s just more of the same,” Bachmann said. “You can’t just throw a few Republican ideas out there and claim this bill’s all of a sudden bipartisan. If this Administration is serious about making reforms, the President should scrap this plan, start from scratch with a clean sheet of paper, and have Republicans working alongside him from the start. Both the House and Senate bills are so seriously flawed, this isn’t something we can just simply alter a little at a time.”

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Richard E Massey on 03/04/2010 - 11:11 am.

    Minnesota’s Senator Al Franken continues to show what a great Statesman he is with “Pledge and Pass” initiative to get Health Care Reform up to the White House in a form that can be reworked in the future.
    Sen. Franken has politely titled the appeal, Pass and Pledge. But, the reality is that Senator Franken is actually separating the wheat from the chaff, in Congress, and seeing who among our elected officials is legit.

    The elected officials who represent The People will be the ones with their thumbs up for delivering the Bill to the President.
    The elected officials who have been paid-off to make sure the Bill gets nowhere near the White House; will be thumbs down on letting it happen.

    It will be just about as simple as that.

  2. Submitted by Steve Kieselstein on 03/04/2010 - 04:56 pm.

    Senator, it was a privilege to support you during your campaign. Thank you for all of your hard work to date in the Senate in general, and on health care reform in particular.

    Several knowledgeable commentators, including David Waldman at Daily Kos (quoting former Senate parliamentarian Robet Dove), believe it is perfectly permissible to do reconciliation under the Budget Act, but have the Senate go first.

    [http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/3/4/842865/-Guess-who-thinks-the-Senate-can-go-first]

    This would presumably make things go much easier in the House, where many members are presumably on the fence because of some of the detours the Senate took the first time around. The Senate would be able to pass the actual final bill. The House could then simply vote on it. Hopefully the Senate vote would include an up or down vote on the public option, either as part of the Senate bill, or by separate amendment.

    Are you willing to consider this alternative, and if not, why not?

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