Health-care reform is headed to President Obama's desk, but the legislative battle isn't over: Legal challenges still loom, and the next round of high-stakes politicking has just begun. Here's THE WEEK's preview:
What's the next step for the health-care reform bill?
Obama will sign the bill into law Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to take up the House's package of "fixes" to that bill. Budget reconciliation rules will apply, which means the package can pass with a simple majority. Even though they can't filibuster, Republicans say they'll try to delay the final vote.
What legislative tricks do Republicans have up their sleeves?
GOP senators are betting they can use a "trump card procedural motion" to get the fix-it bill thrown out, says Z. Byron Wolf at ABC News. If the Senate parliamentarian—the chamber's offical rules advisor—agrees with even one of the Republican objections, that could send the bill back to the House for another vote. That said, the less you know about the GOP's plan, says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post, "the more impressive it sounds." Any procedural setbacks would be an "irritant" to Democrats, but hardly "disastrous." Yes, it is a pretty desperate-sounding "Hail Mary" by Republicans, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Republicans would be better off pursuing post-passage lawsuits.
Idaho has already instructed its attorney general to sue the Obama administration as soon as the reform package is law, arguing that it's unconstitutional for the federal government to force citizens to buy private health insurance. Virginia and Florida are taking similar steps, and some 34 other states are also weighing constitutional challenges. The law's use of the interstate commerce clause is "unprecedented" and arguably not supported by the text of the Constitution, says Georgetown law instructor Randy E. Barnett in The Washington Post, but "the smart money" says the Supreme Court "won't thwart the popular will." If two-thirds of state legislators demand a constitutional amendment to void the individual mandate, Congress has to hold an amendment convention, and they'd probably just repeal the law instead.
What about the GOP's pledge to repeal the law?
An outright legislative undo of the bill is the preferred solution for conservative activists, and they're pushing it hard, urging Republican officeholders and candidates to sign "repeal pledges." But the GOP should harbor "no illusions," says David Frum at Frum Forum. "This bill will not be repealed." Nonsense, says William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. The important provisions don't kick in until 2014, so if Republicans make 2010 and 2012 referenda on the unpopular law, then win office, why couldn't they repeal it?
Do Republicans have other options?
Republican Mitt Romney wants the GOP to win control of Congress and the White House by the 2012 elections, and then simply not fund the health-care overhaul, getting rid of the need to officially repeal the law.
What's the Democrats' plan?
Passing the fix-it bill through the Senate then, if necessary, through the House again, and then selling the law. Obama is hitting the road Thursday to fight for a shift in public opinion. Congressional Democrats are circulating a list of benefits that will take effect this year and next.
Why are emotions so high on this?
Many conservatives and Tea Party activists are convinced that this bill is the first step toward a single-payer government-run health-care system that will bankrupt America and lead to a crippling decline in U.S. power and prestige. Democrats see it as a long-deferred moral victory that will grant almost everyone the right to health care, bringing the U.S. into line with other industrialized countries.
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