Commentary Magazine


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The Saucer

James Pethokoukis reports:

Just talked to a very insightful Capitol Hill Watcher who doesn’t think Harry Reid has the votes in the Senate to pass anything resembling comprehensive healthcare reform. You can count out Lieberman, Landrieu, Nelson and maybe even Bayh.

The endless parade of amendments and debates will continue. There will be no quickie Saturday votes in the Senate, as Nancy Pelosi rammed through on the House. That has, of course, real consequences, as Pethokoukis observes:

Once the Congress goes homes, members could be inundated with complains and protests, just like in August. Also, the rising unemployment rate continues to sap public confidence in the Obama agenda and Washington, in general.

The Founding Fathers would be pleased. As George Washington described it, “We pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The danger of ill-advised, ill-conceived, and hastily voted upon legislation is mitigated by the Senate’s laborious process and rules. Unlike the House, where many a member resides within the safe confines of gerrymandered district, the Senate has many an “unsafe” state — Red States with precariously perched Democratic incumbents (Arkansas), Blue States with enough independents and Republicans to swing Republican in a wave year (Connecticut and Pennsylvania), and ones in between with increasingly unpopular senators (Nevada). All will be looking cautiously over their shoulders, as well they should.

Democrats have declared health-care reform to be a political imperative, fearing that doing “nothing” will imperil them. But “not terrifying the voters” isn’t the same as doing nothing. Even Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, if forced to, can come up with a handful of reforms, gussy them up, and declare victory. That may come — but only after the Senate, just as it was designed to do, cools the House’s legislative brew.