If there's one reason to think that health-care reform will still succeed, it has to be because of the speaker of the House. Here's what she said Thursday, via Greg Sargent:
You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people.
Kind of reminds me of Sean Connery saying, "They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue." And not the sort of thing we've been hearing from tremulous Democrats over the last week and a half.
Throughout this process, Pelosi has had a pretty good handle on her caucus. Engineering the passage of the original House bill was no mean feat, with both Blue Dogs and members of the Progressive Caucus issuing ultimatums and threatening to walk away if their demands weren't met. Pelosi employed the "catch and release" technique pioneered by Tom DeLay, whereby sufficient votes are secured to pass a bill, then a certain number of vulnerable members are told they can vote against it. It passed with just one Democratic vote to spare, meaning she and her lieutenants knew exactly what they needed and what they had.
With a few exceptions, Democrats in both chambers are now realizing not only that they absolutely must pass health-care reform but that the only reasonable way to do so is by the House passing the Senate version, and securing an agreement for some changes to be passed through the Senate via reconciliation. For that to happen, a lot of egos have to be massaged and fears assuaged. Conservative Democrats have to cast one more vote for a bill most of them don't care all that much about. Progressives have to hold their noses and vote for a bill that isn't nearly what they want. If all of those pieces are going to slide into place, it will be because Pelosi made it happen.
So right now, the fate of health-care reform is in her hands more than anyone else's. She might not be able to get it done. But at this point, I'd rather be depending on her than on just about any of the other players in this process. She may not be the most dynamic performer on Meet the Press, and Republicans may love to attack her and her "San Francisco values." But if what you need is a piece of legislation muscled through, she's the one you want to get it done.
-- Paul Waldman