In a press conference on Capitol Hill today, Rep. David Dreier (R., Calif.), ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, said the word around the House is that Democrats are still about 10 votes away from securing the 216 they will need to pass changes to the health-care bill. Dreier added that that number might be moving in the wrong direction for Democrats.
“You are hearing that people are peeling off,” he said.
Dreier also repeated the warnings about the Senate that many Congressional Republicans have been issuing to the other side of the aisle. He said that, assuming House Democrats succeed in passing a reconciliation measure along to the Senate, even marginal changes made there would require the measure to return to the House yet again.
“I would not be terribly sanguine about the prospect of the Senate effectively dealing with this,” Dreier said, adding that only once in history has a reconciliation measure passed through the Senate without a single amendment.
The reconciliation measure would also have to be sent back to the House if any provisions contained therein were struck down by the Byrd Rule. A memo from Dreier’s office put it this way:
The one thing that history demonstrates is that the reconciliation process in the Senate is unpredictable. No matter how well you “scrub” the provisions in a bill for potential Byrd rule violations, something always gets through. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 had 3 provisions which were stricken on Byrd rule points of order despite a thorough review. The notion that the reconciliation bill will be immediately cleared by the Senate for the President is difficult to fathom.
Dreier said that Republicans won’t know until later this week whether the Democrats will pursue a form of what has come to be known as the “Slaughter Solution” to avoid a direct vote on the Senate bill. But in the memo, Dreier’s office gives three “flavors” such a rule could take. It could simply self-enact the Senate bill and send it to the president to sign. It could deem the Senate bill passed upon passage of the reconciliation measure in the House. Or, in the most unprecedented option, it could deem the Senate bill passed in the House only when the Senate passes the House reconciliation measure.
UPDATE: As several readers noted, the first draft of this post was unclear on whether the whip count was moving toward or away from passage. To clarify, Dreier suggested that the Democrats could be losing votes.