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Blog Buzz: Irreconcilable differences?

From NBC's Ali Weinberg
A day before President Obama's half-day bipartisan health care summit tomorrow at Blair House, the liberal and conservative blogospheres discuss whether "fixes" to the Senate's health care reform bill, on contentious points like a public option or tax on expensive insurance plans, can realistically pass through budget reconciliation. 

Red State's Brian Darling takes New Republic writer Jonathan Chait's assertion, made a few days ago, that "it's fairly easy to just have the House pass the Senate [health care reform] bill, then use reconciliation to eliminate the Nebraska Medicaid subsidy and change the mix of taxes that pay for new coverage." 

Darling points out a combination of parliamentary hurdles and points of contention in the actual legislation that he writes disprove Chait's premise. "It is far from easy, if you ask somebody who understands the budget rules, to pass a reconciliation bill with 50 votes plus the VP... Any member of the Senate can make a point of order against provisions that do not comply with the instructions.  If a point of order is made, and the Parliamentarian acts in good faith, proponents of the provision would need 60 votes to retain it," Darling writes. 

On the Senate bill's actual provisions:  "[It] will offend pro-life Democrats and that is something that seems impossible to solve via reconciliation.  The reconcilation measure will have controversial new tax provisions and it will lack your beloved public option.  The massive new taxes proposed in the President's reconciliation draft, like a new tax "on income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties an rents" are going to be unpopular."  
 
Hot Air's Allahpundit takes issue with First Read's point this morning that President Obama may court fiscally conservative Blue Dog House Democrats who did not vote for the health care bill the first time around, but may be willing to support a bill without a public option or "millionaire's tax." 

Allahpundit's response: "That assumes that (a) no progressives will walk away from Obama because he didn't include a public option, and (b) that the political risk to Blue Dogs in voting yes now is the same as, or even less than, the risk they faced when voting on Pelosi's bill in November, which of course is insane." 
 
TNR health care columnist Jonathan Cohn refutes the prevailing sentiment in the conservative blogosphere - also articulated in a memo by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor today - that House Democrats do not have enough votes to pass a set of health care amendments through reconciliation. "Conservative Democrats in the Senate have been indicating they are open to passing final amendments to the bill via the budget reconciliation process. When Bernie Sanders or Sherrod Brown say Democrats need to use reconciliation because of Republican obstructionism, that doesn't mean much. When Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, and Ben Nelson say their liberal colleagues may be right, that's Significant...Comments like these do more than increase, vastly, the odds that reconciliation amendments could pass the Senate. They also embolden those skittish House Democrats skittish who either fear the bill won't play well in conservative districts or don't trust the Senate to do its part," Cohn writes.
 
"The odds, in other words, are still not great. But they are, once again, moving in the right direction.  Maybe the reason Cantor is trying so hard to convince Democrats that passing reform is hopeless is that, in reality, it isn't," he continues. 
 
MYDD's Jonathan Singer notes that both sides of the aisle have relied heavily on budget reconciliation to pass health care legislation. "It has been the preferred tactic for Senates, Democratic and Republican alike, for decades," Singer writes. "To take one example, the CHIP program, under which children across the country are provided healthcare coverage, was created through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Heck, COBRA, which enables Americans to keep their health coverage after being laid off, was named for the reconciliation legislation under which it was passed: the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. The list goes on." 
 
AMERICAblog's Joe Sudbay provides part of that list, linked to from the NPR website, also noting that "reconciliation isn't new."