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Honest Ezra Klein vs. Flack Ezra Klein

Morgen on March 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Here is Jon Cohn commenting on Pelosi’s options for passing the Senate health reform bill, on his blog at The New Republic this past Saturday:

The House has leeway for how it debates and votes on those two bills. And according to the sources–which include a senior House leadership aide–three options are on the table:

1) The House would vote on the two bills separately. Upon passage, the Senate bill would be ready for the president’s signature. The amendments, meanwhile, would go to the Senate for approval there. Call this the “Schoolhouse Rock” option.

2) The House would vote once. The vote would be on the amendments. But with that vote, the House would “deem” the Senate bill passed. (Yes, it can do that.) At that point, the main bill would be ready to go to the president for his signature, while the amendments would go to the Senate for consideration there.

3) The House would vote once, just like in option (2). But in this case, the House would deem the Senate bill passed only after the Senate had approved the amendments. Once the Senate approved the amendments, then–and only then–could the main bill go to the president for signature.

At 7:10 a.m (ET) this morning Ezra Klein had this to say about these options (emphasis added):

Oy. Options two and three are bad, bad, very bad ideas. Indeed, the fact that they’re under consideration suggests the House has let its anger at the Senate drive it temporarily insane.

Option two is bad politics. No one cares whether the House passed the bill or “deemed” the bill passed. People don’t pay attention to whether you voted using the passive voice or not. But by falling back on this bizarre locution, the House signals to voters that it thinks it’s passing a bad bill. Some members of the House may indeed think that. I disagree with them. But for their own sake, if they’re going to let this bill become law, they’d better pretend they agree to me.

Imagine the ads. “My opponent thought the health bill such a bad piece of legislation that he wouldn’t even vote for it. But nor was he brave enough to stand up to Nancy Pelosi and say no! Vote for the guy who’s not a wimp.” And what’s our hypothetical House members response? “No, you don’t understand. I only refused to vote yes or no because I was hoping to pass a small package of amendments and was worried that the Senate wouldn’t act on them fast enough?” You have to be kidding me.

And here is Ezra just a few hours later (1:31 ET) (emphasis added):

There are a number of procedural options on the table, but today, Pelosi said that she favors the “deem and pass” strategy.

Here’s how that will work: Rather than passing the Senate bill and then passing the fixes, the House will pass the fixes under a rule that says the House “deems” the Senate bill passed after the House passes the fixes.

The virtue of this, for Pelosi’s members, is that they don’t actually vote on the Senate bill. They only vote on the reconciliation package. But their vote on the reconciliation package functions as a vote on the Senate bill. The difference is semantic, but the bottom line is this: When the House votes on the reconciliation fixes, the Senate bill is passed, even if the Senate hasn’t voted on the reconciliation fixes, and even though the House never specifically voted on the Senate bill.

It’s a circuitous strategy born of necessity. Pelosi doesn’t have votes for the Senate bill without the reconciliation package. But the Senate parliamentarian said that the Senate bill must be signed into law before the reconciliation package can be signed into law. That removed Pelosi’s favored option of passing the reconciliation fixes before passing the Senate bill. So now the House will vote on reconciliation explicitly and the Senate bill implicitly, which is politically easier, even though the effect is not any different than if Congress were to pass the Senate bill first and pass the reconciliation fixes after. This is all about plausible deniability for House members who don’t want to vote for the Senate bill, although I doubt many voters will find the denials plausible.

In case you had trouble following all of this, Pelosi said she is in favor of Cohn’s “option 2″. So literally within the span of just a few hours Klein went from referring to Democrats as “insane” for even considering such a “bad, bad, very bad” political strategy, to talking about the “virtue” of it, and how there are only “semantic” differences between this approach and the House actually voting for the Senate bill.

It’s only a “circuitous strategy”, not a transparently dishonest and cowardly approach as suggested by Klein in his original post.

I bet Ezra was wishing he could have just disappeared his earlier post. One of the downsides of blogging for the Washington Post, I suppose. Although apparently his editors have no problem with him directly contradicting himself in service to a partisan political agenda.

What a joke.

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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