The Corner

The House Vote

Whichever house of Congress voted first on a health-care bill was always going to make things harder for the other, and last night Nancy Pelosi certainly made things harder for Harry Reid. Whatever bill language Reid is able to finagle out of the two very different bills he is now working to combine, his senators know that the bill will eventually have to be reconciled with the one passed last night by the House, and that House bill would receive nowhere near 60 votes in the Senate. The extremely narrow margin of victory in the House also means Pelosi doesn’t have a lot of maneuvering room, so Reid can’t plausibly tell his members that one thing or another will get fixed in conference, since it’s clear that health care reform is in just as precarious a condition in the House as in the Senate, but over different issues and concerns. Pelosi was able to let 39 of her members avoid voting for this monstrosity, and so to leave them able to tell their voters they were not part of it. Reid can’t afford to give that privilege to even one of his Democratic senators (a number of whom face at least as conservative a constituency as those 39 House Democrats.) He needs every one of them to vote for it.

The trouble for the Democrats is that the Senate was always going to be the more difficult challenge for health-care reform — because its members are not as far to the left on the whole, and because its rules require a supermajority and don’t give the majority leadership nearly as much power over the process. Nancy Pelosi has now made it even more difficult. So while the Democrats certainly took a major step on the old “how a bill becomes law” civics textbook diagram last night, it’s not nearly as clear that they made progress in the real world of legislative strategy. Nancy Pelosi made things a little easier on herself and her members by going first, but may well have made the Democrats’ larger task harder.

Yuval Levin — Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Most Popular

White House

The Problem Isn’t Just the GOP, Mr. Comey

During a CNN town hall on Wednesday night, James Comey alleged that the Republican party allows President Trump to get away with making inappropriate statements without holding him accountable. “If the Republicans, if they just close their eyes and imagine Barack Obama waking up in the morning saying someone ... Read More
Law & the Courts

‘Judges for the #Resistance’

At Politico, I wrote today about the judiciary’s activism against Trump on immigration: There is a lawlessness rampant in the land, but it isn’t emanating from the Trump administration. The source is the federal judges who are making a mockery of their profession by twisting the law to block the Trump ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Friendships Are America’s Asset

The stale, clichéd conceptions of Donald Trump held by both Left and Right — a man either utterly useless or only rigidly, transactionally tolerable — conceal the fact that the president does possess redeeming talents that are uniquely his, and deserve praise on their own merit. One is personal friendliness ... Read More
U.S.

Columbia 1968: Another Untold Story

Fifty years ago this week, Columbia students riding the combined wave of the civil-rights and anti-war movements went on strike, occupied buildings across campus, and shut the university down. As you revisit that episode of the larger drama that was the annus horribilis 1968, bear in mind that the past isn’t ... Read More
Culture

Only the Strident Survive

‘I am not prone to anxiety,” historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Times of London on April 22. “Last week, however, for the first time since I went through the emotional trauma of divorce, I experienced an uncontrollable panic attack.” The cause? “A few intemperate emails, inadvertently forwarded ... Read More