It’s hard to think how this week could be going any worse for the Democrats. They’ve gotten tangled up in a losing argument over the Slaughter Rule. The polling still looks bleak for ObamaCare. And they don’t have a bill. No, really. They are having some difficulty getting the numbers right, which — remember — is still within the artificial framework of a bill that excludes the Doc Fix and makes use of many accounting tricks. This report explains:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alluded to the latest hurdle for the legislation in an afternoon news conference. She said Democrats were still waiting for congressional budget analysts to determine whether the package — which contains an array of amendments to the health-care bill aimed at winning over wavering House Democrats — would meet the party’s deficit-reduction goals. . . .
Instead of being measured against current law, the deficit-reduction potential of the “fixes” package will be measured against the Senate bill, which must be passed by the House before the Senate can approve the fixes. . . . But virtually everything House Democrats want to achieve in their package costs money. For example, Obama and House leaders have promised to increase government subsidies to help lower-income people purchase insurance, to fully close the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription drug program, and to extend to all states the deal cut with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), under which the federal government would pay for a proposed expansion of Medicaid.
In other words, the “fixes” Obama came up with to ameliorate the most politically objectionable aspects of the Senate bill have made it even less (is it possible?) fiscally defensible. Trimming back on the Cadillac Tax — that is the excise tax on generous health-care plans — has put a hole in the already suspect budgetary assumptions of the Senate bill. So the House has to come up with more revenue. The hitch:
Those changes are unlikely to match the long-term savings proposed in the Senate bill, aides and lawmakers said, leaving House leaders scrambling to come up with additional sources of cash. Failure to comply with the reconciliation rules would imperil the package in the Senate and could cause big problems in the House, where the votes of many fiscally conservative Democrats hinge on the ability of health-care legislation to rein in soaring budget deficits.
So days before voting — or not really voting — to revolutionize American health care and impose a massive new tax-and-spend scheme on the public, we still don’t really know what they are voting on. Er, not voting on. It’s remarkable and, even for this crew, quite jaw-dropping in its disregard for any semblance of seriousness. But the point is simply to pass something, after all. It’s all about saving face for the Democratic leadership. The “details” — the Constitution and the substance of the bill — will just need to take a back seat.