Spreading Health Care Panic.

This is most likely a case of reporters taking a couple of comments made by senators, and over-interpreting them to come to a dramatic conclusion. But it seems designed to make liberals' heads explode:

Democrats Put Stop On Health Overhaul

WASHINGTON — With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama's top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, deflected questions about health care. “We’re not on health care now,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.” He added, “There is no rush,” and noted that Congress still had most of this year to work on the health bills passed in 2009 by the Senate and the House.

These same two reporters told us in Tuesday's paper, "Seeking to avert the collapse of major health care legislation, the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress face a crucial decision about whether to use a procedural maneuver that would allow them to advance the bill despite the loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate." Since Democrats lost their majority, apparently by losing 11 seats in one special election, then why shouldn't they just concede defeat right now?

And since Democrats are seriously considering the only reasonable approach to passing health-care reform -- have the House pass the bill the Senate already passed, and then make modifications to it through the Senate reconciliation process, which can't be filibustered -- Sens. Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln are expressing their outrage. Lincoln, likely enjoying her final year in the Senate, decided to declare her implacable opposition to the idea that the majority should rule:

"I am opposed to and will fight against any attempts to push through changes to the Senate health insurance reform legislation by using budget reconciliation tactics that would allow the Senate to pass a package of changes to our original bill with 51 votes," she said. "I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans."

Imagine that -- the Senate, passing something with 51 votes! Appalling! "Just ramming through a bill on a purely party-line vote on a strictly partisan basis will not do much to generate the kind of progress around here on other issues that we need," said Bayh. Yes, indeed -- it's only proper that a unified Republican party, with its 41 votes, should be able to veto anything Democrats want to do. Bayh also suggested that Democrats revisit the bill that was passed out of the Senate Finance Committee. "If Sen. Snowe was willing to vote for it, perhaps there were other Republicans who were willing to," Bayh said.

I'm not making that up. Bayh actually suggests that there is a version of health reform that Republicans will support. After all that's happened.

I suppose you could consider it a good thing that Democrats are free to say whatever idiotic thing comes into their heads, in contrast to Republicans, with their iron message discipline. And maybe if Harry Reid and Dick Durbin worked harder to impose that kind of message discipline on their members, it wouldn't work anyway. In the meantime, the party sure doesn't hesitate to do Republicans' work for them.

-- Paul Waldman

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