Have Republicans finally realized no one cares about Senate procedures?
For two weeks, the GOP has been squawking about the budget reconciliation process, protesting that passing any part of healthcare reform by a majority vote (instead of the 60 votes it takes to shut off a filibuster) would be an abuse of the rules. But on Monday morning, speaking to about two dozen political reporters for a solid 30 minutes, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, barely mentioned reconciliation. Cornyn said there wasn't much reason for the White House to care if the "fixes" to the healthcare bill actually passed that way, as long as the House adopts the Senate's already-passed version of the legislation. But otherwise, he didn't push the notion that the process was somehow going to alarm voters.
That's probably smart. There's no reason to think voters actually care which set of its own internal rules the Senate uses to deal with legislation. And Democrats were ready to battle over the procedures by pointing out the quixotic lengths Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., went to last week to block an extension of unemployment benefits.
So by Monday, Cornyn didn't even bother with a half-hearted "they're going to cram this down your throats" line -- a sure sign that the whole future of the healthcare bill will effectively come down to whether House Democratic leaders can persuade enough of their members to swallow the Senate bill.
Cornyn did say, though, that there's essentially no political risk for Republicans to oppose the healthcare bill as dogmatically as they have been doing. "There is a time to say 'no,'" he said. "I don't think there's any downside in saying 'no' to that." If the bill does pass, despite the unified Republican stance against it, they'll make repealing it a centerpiece of their campaigns this fall.