If you have any doubt that the Democratic leadership of the House views passing the current health care reform bill as the beginning, not the end, of the process of creating a national government health care system, just note what Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a group of bloggers on Monday. "My biggest fight has been between those who wanted to do something incremental and those who wanted to do something comprehensive," Pelosi said, according to an account by Washington Post reform advocate Ezra Klein. "We won that fight, and once we kick through this door, there'll be more legislation to follow."
But since the current bill is unpopular, and Pelosi at the moment does not have enough Democratic, much less Republican, votes to pass it, the door she will be kicking through is the back door. Pelosi told the bloggers she favors using the "self-executing rule" strategy in which the House would pass the Senate health care bill without going on the record as specifically voting for it. "I like it," Pelosi said of the scheme, "because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill." The strategy of passing the Senate bill while avoiding a direct vote, writes Klein, "is all about plausible deniability for House members who don't want to vote for the Senate bill."
In a particularly Alice-in-Wonderland moment, Pelosi argued that the debate over health care reform can begin after the bill is passed. "Pelosi said passing the bill would allow Dems to undertake a 'debate' with Republicans over 'what is the balanced role that government should have,'" writes another pro-reform blogger at the Post, Greg Sargent. According to Sargent, Pelosi explained, "We have to take it to the American people, to say, this is the choice that you have. This is the vision that they have for your health and well being, and this is the vision that we have." Again, in Pelosi's scenario, that debate would occur after the bill is passed.
Finally, Pelosi downplayed statements from her own team that she does not yet have the votes to pass the national health care measure. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Democratic Whip Rep. James Clyburn said, "No, we don't have them as of this morning." Meeting with the bloggers, Pelosi said, "The reason [Clyburn] said that is we don’t have a bill yet." In the end, the Speaker declared, "I have no intention of not passing this bill."