I know, I know: I’m an academic. I shouldn’t say such thing. But what else are you going to do when things like this happen:
The Senate Democrats’ top budget guy told reporters today that the Senate can’t pass a reconciliation package tweaking a comprehensive health care bill unless the House passes the Senate bill first. And if the House won’t do that, he says health care reform is “dead.”
“The only way this works is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then, depending on what the package is, the reconciliation provision that moves first through the House and then comes here,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) outside the upper chamber this morning. “That’s the only way that works.”
I pointed out that House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly insisted they won’t take a flier on a reconciliation package–that they will only pass the Senate bill after the smaller side-car reconciliation bill has been all wrapped up.
“Fine, then it’s dead,” Conrad said.
Conrad added that he wouldn’t personally make any promises or symbolic gestures to House members to assure them that the Senate can or will take any action in a reconciliation bill to address House concerns.
“I don’t sign any blank check,” Conrad said.
One day, when the story of the health care fight is finally written, either with a happy or a sad (or an in-between ending), Conrad will turn out to be the biggest villain, at least on the Democratic. it was Conrad who dragged out the Gang of Six negotiations. It was Conrad who blocked using reconciliation for health care last year. And now, it’s Conrad who is trying to block the last, best hope for the Democratic Party’s signature policy issue over the past seven decades.