What’s Next with Health Care?

As I write this, President Barack Obama has just recently concluded his big, televised summit with congressional Republicans and Democrats.  The idea was pitched as a way to move forward with health care reform, but both sides had staked out their positions in advance, so it’s no great surprise that nothing really unexpected happened.

The problem for the President and the Democrats is that with their control of the House and Senate, they have passed health care reform in both congressional bodies, but the bills they’ve passed are different.  The Senate can’t tweak its bill without losing some senators along the way.  Things are more complicated in the Senate because of its rules.  It takes a simple majority (51 votes) to pass a piece of legislation, but it takes 60 senators to agree to vote on the issue.  Tweaking the current bill will bring them below the 60 vote threshold.  However, since a vote has already taken place, the party in control of the Senate (the Democrats) could say that they don’t need the magic 60 to authorize the re-vote (Does this seem needlessly complicated, or is it just me?).

Ignoring the 60-vote rule, though, is rarely done and often frowned upon.  It is seen as unsporting, and the argument has been made that what goes around, comes around.  If Democrats use maneuver now, they will be vulnerable to it when Republicans are in control some day.  This brings us back to the televised summit.  One wonders if the President and the Democrats were really thinking about damage control here.  If they can use the summit to portray Republicans as unreasonable then the American people might not object as much to the Senate maneuvering.

Ah, politics–what a complicated game.