Last week President Obama sanctioned “reconciliation,” a complex tactic that would jam ObamaCare into law on sheer power politics. But what if this gambit is really a false-flag operation, meant to lure House Democrats into voting for a bill that they would otherwise oppose? That’s the question many rank-and-file Members are now asking themselves, and they’re right to be worried.
The cleanest option for Democrats would be for the House to pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill word for word, thereby bypassing a Senate filibuster under the normal rules and forwarding ObamaCare directly to the Rose Garden signing ceremony. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly said the votes simply don’t exist for the Senate bill as is.
Thus the convoluted scheme the White House has mapped out. The House would first pass the Senate bill, and then pass a reconciliation bill that addresses these objections—in effect converting the process into a makeshift and unprecedented vehicle for amendments. Mrs. Pelosi can’t rope in the 216 votes she needs without an iron-clad promise of another round of Senate action.
Iron-clad promise—or double-cross? After all, the White House would much prefer the Senate bill, because by its lights the cost-control programs are tougher than what the House prefers. And from a political perspective, a bill that can be signed immediately and that the press will portray as an historic achievement is far better than the drawn-out and gory battle that would be reconciliation. Republican Senators will have many procedural knives at their disposal, and the process will force Democrats to cast further votes and spend more months debating a deeply unpopular bill.
In other words, perhaps Mr. Obama has embraced this reconciliation two-step only to renege as soon as the House gives him what he wants. While some House Democrats would be furious, they’d soon be defending the Senate bill by necessity against the GOP. The moderates who vote for it might be collateral damage, but the White House has already concluded that this is the price of building its cradle-to-grave entitlement citadel.
Mr. Obama’s closing arguments are lending credence to rank-and-file fears that they’re getting played. Democrats are telling reporters that Mr. Obama has been telling them in private meetings that his Presidency, and the party’s claim to any achievement, rests on passing a bill. With barely any mention of substance, the right bill is any bill, by any political means necessary.