Is the Obama health care proposal serious? 

From the fair-minded and well-informed Keith Hennessey comes an answer: No. Hennessey, who worked in the Bush White House and for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, writes that “someone in the administration put a lot of work into this proposal. It is extremely detailed, and it reads like a best effort to find a fair middle ground between two warring legislative bodies.” Nonetheless, he concludes that without an agreement between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid to push this proposal through the House and, by the reconciliation process, the Senate, “it is possible that we are witnessing uncoordinated Democratic leaders each pursuing their own exit strategy in anticipation of legislative failure.” He continues to believe the chances that no bill will be passed are 90%.

My sense is that Pelosi doesn’t have the 217 votes (with two House vacancies) she needs for passage of a health care bill and that Reid doesn’t have the clear concurrence of 50 Democratic senators to use the reconciliation process. My guess is that Pelosi will be reluctant to bring a bill to the floor until the Senate has passed one, and that she needs a Stupak amendment on abortion, which isn’t in the Obama proposal, to get close. For a dose of healthy skepticism that the Obama initiative will result in final legislation, see Megan McArdle of the Atlantic.

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Michael Barone

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