Oh Really?

Carl Hulse of the New York Times, reporting on Democratic efforts to get moderate Republicans to support health care reform, writes:

While the two women are the main focus of Democrats at the moment, officials said they would seek opportunities to appeal to others. They also hope any final joint House-Senate proposal could attract at least a few Republicans in each chamber.

Really? While we don’t know what the final Senate bill will look like, we can assume that it will be more conservative than the House bill that passed last weekend. When you merge the more liberal house bill with the more conservative Senate bill, what you’re likely to get is something in the middle. That is, a bill that is more conservative than the House bill but also more liberal than the Senate bill.

While it may be possible that the conference committee report moves to the right enough that more House Republicans will vote for it, I don’t see how any commentator or operative can realistically expect that the conference committee report will draw more Senate Republican support than whatever the bill currently under consideration gathers in the end. The Senate bill will be the rightward end for health care reform legislation, but as we’re currently going, it is unlikely that a single Republican will support it. When that bill is made somewhat more liberal in conference, it will not bring any more Republicans to the table in the Senate. In fact, there’s a distinct chance that even if Snowe or Collins supports the current Senate bill, the conference process will move the bill too far to the left and result in less GOP support for the merged bill.

So, in short, either Hulse is fundamentally misunderstanding the process as it’s being described to him or these anonymous Democratic sources are not being realistic about what the melding of these two bills will look like from a substantive standpoint. Of course, there is a third option: that these anonymous Democratic officials plan on using the conference committee as a means of producing a bill more conservative than both the House and the Senate in order to win the patina of bipartisanship. I hope that’s not the case, though, as it would be one of the most cynically political moves I can recall in recent history.

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