There's quite a bit of buzz today that Democrats might go it alone on a health care overhaul, giving up on a bipartisan bill because of Republican intransigence and unwillingness to compromise.
But that prospect isn't all that new.
In April, congressional Democrats reached a deal that would let the Senate pass a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Under that agreement, the parliamentary maneuver -- known as reconciliation -- would be used only if the Senate fails to pass a bill by Oct. 15.
The New York Times and CNN, among others, are reporting that there is more focus on just getting enough Democrats' votes to pass a health care bill after the Republican criticism during the town halls being held by members of Congress during the August recess.
But the White House is already pushing back, with spokesman Robert Gibbs telling reporters this morning that it's still only mid-August and there is plenty of time to shape a bill that could win broad support.
Gibbs told reporters this afternoon that the White House still wants a bipartisan deal and believes that key Republicans are still working toward one in good faith.
"The president believes strongly in working with Republicans and Democrats, independents, any that seek to reform health care, that want to see costs cut, coverage increased, insurance reforms implemented that no longer discriminate against families and individuals," he said.
But asked whether that preference trumps Obama's oft-stated goal of getting a bill passed this year, Gibbs replied, "It does not."
And Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said he's still optimistic that his bipartisan "Gang of Six" is on track to produce a compromise bill by Sept. 15.
Republicans, instead of going ballistic about being frozen out, are treating the possibility as old news. The office of Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican, said today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear for a while now that Democrats would pass a bill without GOP support and that the White House has not made much effort at reaching out to Republicans.
“The announcement that Democrats will abandon bipartisanship in order to pass their costly government takeover of health care is nothing new," House Republican leader John Boehner said in a statement today. "From day one, the White House has taken a go-it-alone approach on health care. Months ago, Republicans sent the president a letter noting areas of potential common ground on health care reform and requesting a meeting with him to discuss a bipartisan way forward. The administration rejected our efforts to work together, choosing instead to craft a costly government takeover of health care and to march forward on a partisan basis solely with Democrats in Congress.
“Now, Democratic leaders find themselves all alone in support of a plan that will drive health care costs higher than ever, increase the federal deficit, slash Medicare, and let government bureaucrats make personal medical decisions that only patients and doctors should make," Boehner added. "The more the American people learn about this plan, the less they like it. It’s time for President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and congressional Democrats to scrap this costly plan, start over and work with Republicans on reforms that make health care more affordable and accessible for middle-class families and small businesses.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.