As the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner points out, “The fat lady hasn’t even started to warm up yet.”
Nancy Pelosi was, after all, able to lose the votes of 39 moderate Democrats. Harry Reid cannot afford to lose even one. A conference committee must reconcile the two vastly different versions. And then, Pelosi must hold together her 3 vote margin of victory (if it gets that far).
Among the issues dividing House and Senate, and liberal and conservative Dems in both bodies:
Employer Mandate: The House bill also contains an employer mandate, a requirement that all but the smallest employers provide insurance to their workers or pay a penalty tax of up to 8 percent of payroll. The Senate, looking at unemployment rates over 10 percent, seems unlikely to include an employer mandate.
The Public Option: The House included, if not a “robust” public option, at least a semi-robust one. But moderate Democrats in the Senate are clearly not on board. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) says that he will join a Republican filibuster if the public option is included. Harry Reid is trying various permutations: a trigger, an opt-in, an opt-out. But as of now there is not 60 votes for any variation.
Abortion: Conservative Democrats insisted on a strict prohibition on the use of government funds for abortion. The bill could not have passed without the inclusion of that provision. House liberal swallowed hard and voted for the bill, despite what they called “a poison pill” anyway with the expectation that it will be removed later. If the final bill includes the prohibition at least a couple liberals could defect. If it doesn’t, conservative Democrats won’t be on board.
Immigration: The Senate Finance Committee included a provision barring illegal immigrants from purchasing insurance through the government-run Exchange. The House Hispanic Caucus says that if that provision is in the final bill, they will vote against it.
Plus, as Politico reports:
The new CNN poll shows that 42 percent approve of the way [President Obama] he is handling of health care reform while 57 percent disapprove. His August numbers were 44/53. That is not good news for Democrats as they come into a homestretch of reform and face mounting opposition to their proposals.
As Tanner says, “The fat lady can go back to sleep.”