Highly informed sources on Capitol Hill have revealed to me details of the Democratic plan to sneak Obamacare through Congress, despite collapsing public approval for healthcare "reform" and disintegrating congressional support in the wake of Republican Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts.
President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid all have agreed to the basic framework of the plan.
Their plan is clever but can be stopped if opponents of radical healthcare reform act quickly and focus on a core group of 23 Democratic Congressman. If just a few of these 23 Democrats are "flipped" and decide to oppose the bill, the whole Obama-Pelosi-Reid stratagem falls apart.
Here's what I learned top Democrats are planning to implement.
Senate Democrats will go to the House with a two-part deal.
First, the House will pass the Senate's Obamacare bill that passed the Senate in December. The House leadership will vote on the Senate bill, and Pelosi will allow no amendments or modifications to the Senate bill.
How will Pelosi's deal fly with rambunctious liberal members of her majority who don't like the Senate bill, especially its failure to include a public option, put heavy fines on those who don't get insurance, and offering no income tax surcharge on the "rich"?
That's where the second part of the Pelosi-deal comes in.
Behind closed doors, Reid and Pelosi have agreed in principle that changes to the Senate bill will be made to satisfy liberal House members — but only after the Senate bill is passed and signed into law by Obama.
This deal will be secured by a pledge from Reid and the Senate's Democratic caucus that they will make "fixes" to the Senate bill after it becomes law with Obama's John Hancock.
But you may ask what about the fact that, without Republican Scott Brown and independent Democrats such as Joe Lieberman, Reid simply doesn't have the 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster that typically can stop major legislation?
According to my source, Reid will provide to Pelosi a letter signed by 52 Democratic senators indicating they will pass the major changes, or "fixes," the House Democrats are demanding. Again, these fixes will be approved by the Senate only after Obama signs the Senate bill into law.
Reid also has agreed to bypass Senate cloture and filibuster rules and claim that these modifications fall under "reconciliation" and don't require 60 Senate votes.
To pass the fixes, he won't need one Republican; he won't even need Joe Lieberman or wavering Democrats such as Jim Webb of Virginia.
His 52 pledged senators give him a simple majority to pass any changes they want, which will later be rubberstamped by Pelosi's House and signed by Obama.
This plan, of course, is a total subversion of the legislative process.
Typically, the Senate and House pass their own unique legislation and then both bills go to a conference committee. In conference, the leadership of both Democrat-dominated houses wheels and deals and irons out differences.
The final compromise bill is then sent back to the full Senate and full House for a vote and has to pass both to go to the president.
In the House, a simple majority passes the legislation. But under Senate rules, major legislation requires 60 votes to end a filibuster.
As it stands, the House bill and Senate bill have major discrepancies. Reid does not have 60 votes to pass a compromise bill that would no doubt include some of the radical provisions House members have been demanding.
But if the House passes the exact Senate bill that passed by a 60-39 Senate vote last month, there is no need for a conference on the bill. It will go directly to the president's desk.
There is a rub to all of this.
This secret plan being hatched by Pelosi and Reid requires not only a pledge by 52 Democratic senators to vote later for the House modifications. House liberals must actually believe these Senators will live up to their pledge and pass the fixes at some future date.
A Senate source cautions: “Senators more than House members and both more than ordinary people, lie.”
Still, my Senate source and others in Washington believe that the liberals in the House, grasping at straws after the stunning Massachusetts defeat, will go along with the Reid-Pelosi plan to bypass a conference bill and ultimately will vote for the Senate version without changes.
Among the key "fixes" House liberals are demanding the Senate pass in reconciliation at some later date include a “carve out” for unions from the “Cadillac policy” insurance tax. The Senate plan funds their healthcare plan by heavy taxes on so-called "Cadillac" insurance plans that provide those insured with exceptionally good coverage including almost unlimited health access with little or no co-payments. The Senate's view was that rich people have such plans and should be taxed for them to pay the less fortunate.
But many unions have Cadillac plans for their members, and they are furious their members will be hit with the Senate tax. The unions have told their minions in the House to oppose the Senate Cadillac plan tax.
House liberals also are requiring a fix that increases fines for those who flout the law and don't buy health insurance (the Pelosi-passed plan includes criminal penalties, including possible jail time if a person doesn't purchase insurance). Another fix will raise subsidies for low-income families seeking to buy insurance.
In the original House bill that passed, healthcare expansion costs would have been paid for by an income tax surcharge on the "rich." House liberals are pushing for that fix as well.
So what is the counter-move? How do opponents of Obamacare stop this?
Opponents cannot rely on liberal Democrats in the House who might balk at passing the Senate bill with just a "pledge" from 52 senators. I have no doubt House liberals, despite their skepticism, will fade under pressure from Pelosi and Obama. They will do their duty and pass the Senate bill, whatever their current posturing.
Instead, the key to stopping the Pelosi-Reid plan lies with conservative or “moderate” Democrats who voted for the healthcare bill the first time.
There are 23 of these conservative-leaning Democratic House members who voted for Pelosi's Obamacare back in November, which passed by just five votes, with 39 Democrats defecting to vote against the bill.
All 23 of these congressmen who did vote for the Pelosi bill are extremely vulnerable.
Opponents of Obamacare need to climb all over these 23 congressmen with TV ads and advocacy campaigns in their districts to get them to change their vote this time, to vote "no" to the Senate bill when it comes before the House.
Voters need to say, "You voted for Obamacare the first time. But your district opposes it by 2 to 1. Now it is coming up for a vote again. Listen to your constituents and vote no. We don’t want Medicare cuts or premium increases or rationing of medical care. Don’t monkey with our healthcare. Vote no this time.”
Since the House healthcare bill passed by five votes, much has happened and the political landscape has changed dramatically.
The Massachusetts election of a Republican to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat has sent shock waves through Washington. Every one of these 23 Democrats knows they will face an angry backlash in their districts if they vote for the Senate bill and go along with Pelosi-Reid plan to ram through Obamacare.
I believe now is the time for opponents to act. The truth is that Obamacare is hanging by a thread.
Opponents, if they move now, can drive a stake through its heart.
Once these congressmen hear from their aroused constituents, they won’t be able to back Obamacare.
As I mentioned, the Pelosi health bill passed the House by only 220-215. Nancy Pelosi knows she has no margin for error.
If only a handful of these 23 congressmen change their vote under public pressure, the Pelosi-Reid plan is stopped and Obamacare is dead. Here's the list to target:
- Harry Mitchell of Arizona
- Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona
- Alan Grayson of Florida
- Mark Schauer of Michigan
- Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire
- Mike Arcuri of New York
- Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio
- Kathy Dahlkemper of Pennsylvania
- Christopher Carney of Pennsylvania
- Tom Perriello of Virginia
- Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona
- Baron Hill of Indiana
- Dina Titus of Nevada
- John Hall of New York
- Stephen Driehaus of Ohio
- Paul Kanjorsky of Pennsylvania
- Dan Maffei of New York
- Allan Mollohan of West Virginia
- Nick Rahall of West Virginia
- Steve Kagen of Wisconsin
- Marion Berry of Arkansas
- John Spratt of Georgia
- Zack Space of Ohio
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