Sometimes the extent to which Beltway reporters and the Republicans spinning them don’t get it is mind-boggling. This is from Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn of the New York Times, on the party line vote on healthcare reform legislation that passed out of the HELP Committee yesterday:
But the partisan split signified potential trouble ahead. Republicans on the panel, who voted unanimously against the measure, described the idea of a new public insurance option as a deal-breaker. They said they still hoped that a consensus bill would emerge from the Senate Finance Committee.
While massive energy has been exerted — some of it by the White House — to create the idea that in order for a healthcare reform bill to pass and be successful, it has to have bipartisan support, this just isn’t true.
In fact, reform that includes a public health insurance option, near universal coverage, strong affordability and employer responsibility measures could pass out of both the House and the Senate without a single Republican vote. Democrats in the Senate don’t even need a single Republican to get past cloture: they have a 60 vote caucus.
As long as Majority Leader Reid and the White House are willing to treat the cloture vote on the final healthcare reform bill as what matters and enact total caucus discipline to get the bill an up or down vote, it won’t matter that Republicans don’t support it. On final passage the need for Republicans is even smaller – we just need 50 votes for it to pass (with Vice President Biden there to cast the deciding vote).
The only consensus that matters at this point is what Senators Reid, Dodd, and Baucus find as they work to finish the Finance bill and merge it with the HELP bill. The Republicans are effectively done in this process, which is clearly something that anyone who wants meaningful change through strong legislation can celebrate.