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The Political Case for Passing Health Care Reform

Since Scott Brown’s stunning Senate victory in Massachusetts last month, the thinking among a good number of moderate Democrats seems to be that simply having the House pass the Senate’s version of health care reform — complete with $100 million in special Medicaid funding for Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) Nebraska — would leave them vulnerable on the campaign trail this year, even if separately they pass amendments plucking out some of the pork. This fear is alive among House Democrats, who don’t want to be seen as a rubber stamp for the Senate’s bill, and also Senate moderates, who are worried about an outcry against reconciliation, the budget process that, if invoked, would allow upper-chamber Democrats to pass the amending bill with a simple majority.

Today, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne points out why not adopting and amending the Senate bill would be an even larger political liability in November.

The real problem is that some Senate Democratic moderates are petrified that Republicans will make terrible trouble if the amendments are passed through the “reconciliation process,” which is fancy congressional talk for majority rule. …

But if Democrats are that intimidated by Republicans, they should just give up their majority. And this fear is politically shortsighted. Right now, every Democrat in the Senate has to defend a vote for the health-care bill anyway, with nothing to show for it — and this includes defending the Nebraska deal.

“By contrast,” Dionne adds, “voting for amendments to the original Senate bill would be a sign that Democrats heard the message from Massachusetts.”

Not to mention, it would signal that the Democratic majority is actually capable of moving big-change bills, which was the reason that voters sent them to Washington to begin with.

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