"Thou Shalt pass a bill with the words 'Health' and 'Reform' in the title before you go home for Christmas," Obama told them.
According to reporters Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray writing in the Washington Post:
President Obama urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to overcome lingering disputes and push a health-care overhaul through the chamber before Christmas, as vigorous negotiations continued behind the scenes to lock down the last votes needed for final passage.
The Medicare buy-in proposal - which would allow people to buy into Medicare at 55 instead of waiting until they are 65 - was opposed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) so Harry Reid dropped the proposal leaving Lieberman to say, "We've got a great health insurance reform bill here."
The problem is … one of the many problems is so few people know what is in the 2,000 page legislation. In an effort to win her over, the Post reported that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was given a "one-on-one briefing on details of the emerging Democratic compromise."
Wait. What? The Ds gave Snowe a secret briefing on what is in the bill? Harry Reid is calling the plays on health care like an NFL coach holding a big white card in front of his face so the opposition can't read his lips.
If this is really the biggest thing since Social Security, why not have a meeting of ALL the members of the U.S. Senate and let them in on the secret? And why is it a secret anyway?
Two-thousand-pages. I mean, really. You don't really think these people are going to read a 2,000 page bill, do you? United States Senators can serve for a quarter of a century and not read 2,000 pages total - if you don't count the daily clips in which they (or the other Senator from their state) are mentioned.
There is no "public option" provision in the Senate bill. At least not yet. The AP's Dave Espo wrote of the WH pep rally:
The AP's Dave Espo wrote
Liberal supporters of the bill vented their frustration at having to abandon the last vestige of a government-run insurance option in the legislation, a slow-motion concession made over many months.
Which leads us to the dreaded … Connnnnnnffffffferrrrrrence Committee.
Assuming all goes according to plan and the Senate passes whatever version of this thing gets to the floor on December 23, sometime early in January, Democrats from the Senate will meet with Democrats from the House to resolve any (and there are many) differences between the two versions.
This is where the mischief really happens.
In the movie biz there is a phrase for an actor flubbing a line in his 27th take, or dropping a glass in an otherwise perfect performance: "We'll fix it in post." Which means "We'll repair any errors in post-production.
The Congressional version of "We'll fix it in post" is: "We'll fix it in Conference."
The House-Senate conferees will meet in secret. They will craft a bill which looks nothing like what either chamber passed and they will each bring that version (known as a "Conference Report") back to their respective floors for a final vote.
This is a little complicated, but it is worth the typing. Conference Reports are privileged, meaning they can be brought up at any time and the motion to do so is not debatable. However, the Conference Report itself - in the Senate - is subject to filibuster and so needs 60 votes to pass.
Unless … It is a Conference Report presented as a "budget reconciliation bill" in which case 51 votes suffice. What is a "budget reconciliation bill?" That phrase is understood by only two people … and they don't agree.
Seriously, though. Because of the enormous budget implications of this legislation, it is quite likely that Harry Reid (D-Nev) will bring up the Conference Report under reconciliation. Republicans will scream bloody murder. Democrats will sheepishly withdraw to the cloak room.
The bill will pass the House and the Senate and, healthy or not, it will go to the President for his signature.