The bill will pass.
This prediction is based on a gut feeling mostly, but also the fact that there are not enough hard “noes” right now, and, because the Dems made it through the week’s media cycle. Friday is “trash day” for news, and then it’s the weekend. The hypocritical gripes about “deem and pass” failed to gain any traction outside of the beltway. What gained traction in Congressional offices, though, were a number of polls showing that Dems are better off voting for this bill than not. The only thing left to make noise is the leadership with its carrots and sticks, and members know that all of them are on the table here. Don’t be surprised if Bart Stupak can even be bought for something (killing a federal court appointee who is too pro-life? That’s a rare scalp for someone who’s not a senator).
Obama will sign the Senate bill on Sunday, and the Senate will take up the sidecar on Monday. I would not be surprised if there are big problems in the Senate, but by then the original Senate bill will already be law, and I don’t think there are 10 Dem defectors in the Senate. There may be 9, but not 10. I’m confident that the Senate bill will pass not because of any faith in the Senate, but because they will be scared not to correct their own mistakes.
And then, the Republicans will make the strategically fatal error of campaigning on health care. Do you think people aren’t already tired of hearing about this? They are sick of it. Obama will have the win in his pocket, which has no small psychological effect. In March. Eight months later is a long time and other things will come up. People won’t be talking about a bill that won’t even go into effect for a while. And if they bring that up, then the obvious response is, let’s speed it up.
This isn’t to say that the Dems won’t lose some seats, but it won’t be the disaster people have predicted. The GOP peaked with the Brown win in Massachusetts.
Obama can govern effectively and eliminate the efficacy of the filibuster by reorganizing his entire legislative agenda around things that can be passed through reconciliation. This is similar to the strategy taken by the Republicans with the “nuclear option.” By threatening to make the filibuster irrelevant, Senators backed down on its use. This strategy would preserve the filibuster (not a great thing) but scale its practical effect back (a good thing).
There are not many things that can’t be at least nudged in the right direction with money, even if there are some cases where an actual coercive law would be better. Just consider, if you will, the drinking age of 21. There is no federal law. But the feds simply said if you want highway money from us, states, you better pass a 21-drinking age law. It took some time for some, but they came around.
It’s a major accomplishment for Obama. He’s going to have to start thinking about his next 2 Supreme Court appointments, and how he can pivot either a massive idiot like Sarah Palin into the 2012 GOP nomination—or, better yet, Mitt Romney who won’t be able to attack Obama’s signature legislative achievement because Obamacare is virtually identical to Romney-care. And Romney will be about as exciting to the right-wing base as McCain was.
UPDATE [3/22/10]: Except for being off 24 hours in the signing time, this has all come true and other commentators including DeLong and Josh Marshall have later made the same point about Romney.