-- The co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus says he
won't support a plan to have the House pass the Senate healthcare bill,
then change the legislation through budget reconciliation.
has to be the whole thing" done through reconciliation, Rep. Raúl
Grijalva, D-Ariz., told Salon Wednesday morning. "The whole issue of
parallel -- do this or do that later -- I don't believe that will
occur." Getting the House to agree to pass the Senate bill -- without
changing even a single comma -- is the only way to send healthcare
legislation to President Obama without the Senate having to vote on it
again. But Grijalva thinks that option is virtually impossible. "If it
is the Senate bill that we're asked to just merely vote on [and] send
to the president's desk for his signature, I think it's going to be
difficult to round up a majority," he said.
progressives will meet with leadership later Wednesday. If they won't
go along with the Senate bill, it's just another reminder of how
complicated the healthcare process is going to be after Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts Tuesday night.
Grijalva said Congress should just find a way to ram healthcare through
the budget reconciliation process, which only needs 51 votes in the
Senate. The rules in the Senate might make it impossible to get most of
the bill past that process; anything considered policy, rather than
budget-trimming, would still need 60 votes. But Grijalva thinks that's
the Senate's problem, and if the Senate, which still has a wide
Democratic majority, can't get its act together, then it's time to pull
the plug on the bill. "The Senate, through their rules, could say none
of this is possible, but I think if we want to pass something, I don't
think it's going to be their version," he said. "If it all fails, then
we're down to [former Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard
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And as panicked Democrats try to figure
out what to do after losing an election they thought was basically
guaranteed a few weeks ago, progressives don't want their colleagues to
come to the wrong conclusions.
"Rather than retreat and
go hide under the covers, I think what's important for Democrats --
particularly in the House -- is to push the envelope," Grijalva said.
"It's time for some good old-time religion. And start talking to the
base -- we need the base. If they stay home, we're in trouble."
What will keep them from staying home, Grijalva thinks, is more action, not less.
of the things that I heard more and more [about] deals that were made
[in the Senate healthcare debate] -- 'It's the same old ballgame, Raúl,
you guys haven't changed,'" he said. "I think we underestimate that
attitude. We won because people were tired and they were cynical about
their government, and we need to energize them and make them begin to
trust that we're doing the right thing. Just act like Democrats. Let's
go work for what we're supposed to work for, and if we have to drag
this White House with us, that's fine."