The White House has begun its health care counter-offensive. You can read the Obama health plan here. The administration leaked its plans to establish price controls to the New York Times here. The health care summit, which will give kabuki theatre a bad name, is February 25. On Sunday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky signaled he will attend.
Obama's new, improved plan is more expensive than the Senate bill, does not address the concerns of pro-life House Democrats over the Senate's abortion language, maintains the tax exemption for the Democrats' union friends, and will effectively turn insurance companies into heavily regulated public utilities. Despite all this, it's highly possible these changes could win at least 50 votes in the Senate -- and with Joe Biden's tie-breaking vote, the bill could become law through the parliamentary measure known as reconciliation.
The House is another story. Nancy Pelosi has to find 218 members to sign on to a bill the public dislikes. She was having trouble before Rep. Cao, Republican of Louisiana, said he would not vote for Obamacare again; before Rep. Wexler, Democrat of Florida, retired; and before Rep. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, died. Rep. Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii, is set to resign his seat at the end of the month as he campaigns for governor. What makes us think Pelosi will have an easier time with Obama's bill?
In order for health care reform to become a reality, more than a few House Democrats who voted No in November will have to vote Yes in March or April. What incentive do the "No"s have to do this? Perhaps a few will be swayed by the lack of a public option. Perhaps a few set to retire will say, What the heck, and perform one last favor for their speaker. Then again, there may also be some red-state Democrats who voted Yes the first time and, after Massachusetts and sinking poll numbers, want to switch to No. So, guessing the House's next move is about as worthwhile as auguring pig entrails.
This much is clear: The "bipartisan health care summit" will not decide Obamacare's fate. The House will. And at the moment, it does not look like Pelosi has the votes.