This afternoon the Senate passed the package of reconciliation fixes that was supposed to complete this round of health-care reform. Three Democrats defected: Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), and Ben Nelson (Neb.). But Reid didn't need their votes. He probably didn't even try that hard to get them. He had the magic 51 he needed to pass the bill.
But unfortunately that's still not the end of this belabored process. Late last night Republicans challenged, on procedural grounds, some aspects of the bill related to education funding. The Senate parliamentarian ruled in their favor and struck them from the bill. That means that the bill passed by the Senate is now different from the one the House passed on Sunday, so this new version needs to be approved again by the House before Obama can sign it.
It's a curious political strategy for Republicans. For starters, they're now on record trying to actively prevent Democrats from stripping measures, like the widely derided cornhusker kickback, from the health-care bill. Even if you don't like the legislation, which they clearly don't, there seems few rational explanations for voting against improvements to it now that it's law. If, as Andrew Romano suggests, yesterday's refusal to work past 2 p.m. was the apogee of childish Republican obstructionism, today's behavior takes gold in the "cutting off your nose to spite your face" stakes.
If somehow the aim of sending the bill back to the House was
to divide Democrats or spin them into disarray, then that too is absurd. In general,
such tactics also serve to solidify Democratic resolve. The bill itself is
already law. At this stage, playing dilatory procedural games over fixes to it
just looks petty. They look like the tactics of a loser and, right now, Democrats are feeling like winners.