The game of chicken commenceth — right now.
In the course of unveiling Obama’s new health reform proposal on a conference call with reporters this morning, White House advisers made it clearer than ever before: If the GOP filibusters health reform, Dems will move forward on their own and pass it via reconciliation.
The assertion, which is likely to spark an angry response from GOP leaders, ups the stakes in advance of the summit by essentially daring Republicans to try to block reform.
“The President expects and believes the American people deserve an up or down vote on health reform,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said on the call.
Pfeiffer said no decision had been made how to proceed, pending the outcome of the summit. But he added that Obama’s proposal is designed to have “maximum flexibility to ensure that we can get an up or down vote if the opposition decides to take the extraordinary step of filibustering health reform.”
Translation: If the GOP doesn’t cooperate with us in any meaningful sense, we’re moving forward on our own.
Also on the call, White House advisers detailed Obama’s new proposal, which was just posted on the White House web site, and discussed the ways it seeks a compromise between the Senate and House proposals. Among the details:
* As expected, the plan has no public option — but this does not preclude a reconciliation vote on the public option later.
* The proposal boosts the threshold for the “Cadillac” tax on the most expensive health plans from $23,000 for a family plan to $27,500. That’s actually a better deal than some labor officials were expecting, though some House Dems will still be angry that the tax is being included at all.
* The proposal also preserves the Senate bill’s state-based exchanges, and does not have a national exchange, as the House bill did.
* However, House Dems will be cheered by the fact that Obama’s compromise closes the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap.
* Also, the bill nixes Ben Nelson’s Nebraska deal and boosts Federal financing for Medicaid expansion in all states.
* And finally, as expected, Obama’s proposal creates a Federal panel to monitor and block exorbitant rate hikes and other unfair practices by the insurance industry.
One final note: On the call, Pfeiffer was careful to note that the proposal is not the product of an agreement between the House and Senate, but rather is “the President’s bill.” This is meant to preclude GOP efforts to cast the proposal as the product of a backroom deal. The lines are drawn.