Many argued that the House must hold the Senate bill hostage to the Senate's passage of the reconciliation measure to ensure those fixes happen. To me, however, common sense dictates that you can't fix something if it doesn't exist, and the Senate bill that the smaller reconciliation bill would fix does not exist in law yet! Hell, it hasn't even been agreed to by both houses of Congress yet. How can Congress amend parts of the law that, well, isn't law? Therefore, I have argued that the House needs to pass the Senate bill first, followed by the reconciliation measure.
News came yesterday that the House, courageously, may be moving to do just that. Rep. George Miller, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and one of the closest confidants of Speaker Pelosi, is now signaling that the House may have to, and will, act first by passing the Senate bill.
Miller conceded that the House may have to pass the healthcare bill first approved by the Senate in December before the Congress can take up a bill using the reconciliation process in order to make fixes to the Senate bill. Using that process, the Senate could approve those changes with only a simple majority vote, instead of the 60 votes usually needed to end a filibuster.Up till now, the Democratic leadership has been saying that they cannot pass the Senate bill in the House without a reconciliation bill first. Something certainly has shifted in the directional momentum of that. Miller isn't alone in sending this signal. The man who counts the Democratic votes in the House, Majority Whip James Clyburn, said last night that who goes first wasn't "important," once again signaling the willingness of the House to go first.
"That may require us to pass the Senate bill first and then send the reconciliation bill to the Senate for them to pass," Miller said. "I think Sen. Reid believes he can put the votes together for that."
Now, I don't think that the top leadership of the House and talking out of steps with the Speaker. The President is now intricately involved in the process, and I believe that the House Democrats realize that they must act first, and also that the Senate will not abandon the process of fixing the bill, since the President has now put on the line his personal ideas about what the final product should look like. This may well have been the reassurance or guarantee that the House was looking for before they moved ahead with the Senate bill. And now, they have it. And they are moving forward.
House Democrats, in doing this, once again become health care heroes. This is a big deal. The bill isn't perfect, and thanks to the right wing propaganda machine, people are scared. The members of the House are not just about to do something historic by sending a comprehensive reform legislation directly to the President's desk. They are profiles in courage. Make no mistake - every single member voting for this bill will be fighting attacks from the right and sometimes from the ideological left who are displeased about one provision or another. This is tough, and I think at this moment, we must stand with them. Ask your member of the House to become a profile in courage, and ask them to move forward by voting for the Senate bill so it can be sent to the President's desk. When you call, don't just tell them you want them to vote for it and follow it up by a reconciliation bill. Thank them for their courage, for doing the right thing. Tell them you have their back. Here are the numbers for the Capitol switchboard, and ask to speak to your representative (or find them on House.gov).
After you have called your representative, asked for their vote for health reform and thanked them for this important step forward, call the switchboard back. Call your Senator. Tell them that you expect them to vote for the fix.