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Negative Nancies

Talking Points Memo has done a terrific job of reporting on the health care fiasco on Capitol Hill. But I think their latest report may be conveying a misleading impression. The headline reads, "Pelosi: We Can't Do It." The lead reads:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just told reporters that she does not believe she has enough votes in the House to pass the Senate health care reform bill as-is -- at least not yet.

But when you read the story, it appears that Pelosi is simply saying she lacks the votes to pass the Senate bill 1) unamended 2) right now:

"I don't see the votes for it at this time," Pelosi said. "The members have been very clear in our caucus about the fact that they didn't like it before it had the Nebraska provision and some of the other provisions that are unpalatable to them."

"In every meeting that we have had, there would be nothing to give me any thought that that bill could pass right now the way that it is," she said. "There isn't a market right now for proceeding with the full bill unless some big changes are made."

This doesn't sound like walking away to me. It sounds like she or some of her members are holding out for an agreement to amend the bill through reconciliation. The good news is that this actually makes the negotiations easier in some ways. The negotiation with the Senate before required the assent Senators like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman. Now it only requires the assent of the 50th Senator, who's probably far more willing to back a tax on the rich, beef up low-income subsidies, and do other things the House demands.

The complicating factor is that this reopens negotiations that were previously all but settled, and may cause the House to increase its demands. That would be foolish -- they should take something approximating the deal that's been on the table, pass it, and walk away.

If the Democrats were all rational people this would have a 100% chance of happening. Since they're not, I'll call it 60%.