Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Utility of Hold-Outs

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen has an interesting post about how the behavior of hold-outs Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson in the Senate might actually smooth the path to reconciliation of House and Senate version of health care reform legislation because the hold-outs create a "credible precommitment to no further negotiation." That may make reconciliation easier because House members of the conference committee will appreciate that they must make the concessions, if the product of reconciliation is to have any chance of passing in the Senate.

The is just one small problem with this argument: Senators Lieberman and Nelson were holding-out from the cloture vote, which requires a majority of 60. After reconciliation, the bill would pass with just a bare majority (51 votes), so the reconciled bill could lose 9 votes in the Senate, including Lieberman's and Nelson's, and still pass. House members will appreciate this and will propose marginal changes in favor of the House version, so long as they expect those marginal changes to maintain a bare majority of Senate approval. So, for example, I would fully expect the conference committee to throw out the special Medicare funding deal Senator Nelson negotiated for his state, Nebraska. That amendment would cost, at most, one vote in the Senate. Likewise, any amendments that only Senator Lieberman demanded are in jeopardy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I actively moderate comments for spam, advertisements, and abusive or offensive language.