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February 25th, 2010
09:02 PM ET

Now what? Democratic plans tomorrow, the same as yesterday

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/02/04/obama.health.care/t1larg.jpg caption="President Obama said Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were working out differences in bills already passed." width=300 height=169]

Dana Bash | BIO
CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent

Although the Democrats’ public stance will be to let the dust from the bipartisan summit settle, several senior congressional Democratic sources concede to CNN that their plans moving forward on health care are not likely to be much different tomorrow than they were yesterday.

Democrats are actively looking into using the parliamentary short cut known as reconciliation to get a health care bill to the President's desk.

They are specifically exploring two issues: The ins and outs of how complicated process could work, and whether the votes are there in the Senate and House to execute this strategy.

On the process, Democratic aides say they are consulting with the parliamentarians in both the House and the Senate on what is possible. The general idea is for the House to pass the Senate bill, and for a package of changes that mirror the President's plan to be passed through both chambers under reconciliation rules, which would only need 51 votes in the Senate.

One example of an open question for the parliamentarians is whether it is possible to pass the changes before the House votes on the Senate bill. Many House Democrats say that's the only way they would agree to the complicated scenario because they don't like the Senate bill, and do not trust the Senate to follow through with a promise to pass the compromise package. House Democrats would likely require an iron clad commitment from Senate Democrats and the President before agreeing to pass the changes first.

Another question Democrats have for the parliamentarians is more fundamental: what can they actually pass through the reconciliation process? It is only supposed to be used for legislation that affects taxes and the deficit.

Then there is the challenge of whether Democrats even have enough votes to pull off the complicated game plan.

Democratic sources say they still aren't completely sure there would even be a 51 vote simple majority in the Senate to finalize health care with the parliamentary short cut. Although Democratic leaders are already reminding the public that Republicans used reconciliation many times for their legislation, some Democrats may be concerned about a public backlash in the face of GOP accusations that they short circuited the process.

The House may be even tougher. House Democrats passed their version of health care with a slim majority and will be missing several votes because of vacancies. The one Republican who voted for the House bill, Rep Joseph Cao, R-La, already says he'll be a “no” next time. There may also be some vulnerable Democrats facing tough races this year who decide to change their yes vote to no.

But the biggest obstacle to passing the Senate's health bill in the House and getting it to the president's desk may be abortion. By some estimates close to a dozen anti abortion Democrats may vote against the bill because they say it’s not strict enough in making sure tax payer dollars are not spent on the procedure.


Filed under: Dana Bash • Democrats • Health Care • Republicans
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