“We no longer expect Congress to pass impactful health reform legislation this year, or even in this political cycle.” That is the opinion of Sector & Sovereign analyst Richard Evans:
1. Voter attitudes are shifting away from both Democrats and health-reform; placing the considerable number of Dems from conservative states and districts in increasingly untenable positions.
2. Substantial time should pass before a vote on final legislation; the Senate is unlikely to vote on a bill by year end, and a final vote on a conference bill is virtually impossible before late January. If trends in voter opinion continue, this is almost certainly too late.
3. On top of this, efforts to keep abortion as a neutral issue have failed. 20 pro-life House Dems have put the issue ahead of health reform, refusing to support legislation that does not completely bar abortion coverage in plans that receive Federal funding.
4. Pro-choice House Dems outnumber their pro-life House Democratic peers nearly 8 to 1. As any final legislation will certainly be well to the right of the House bill, this means House progressives may be asked to support a final bill whose healthcare provisions they find lacking in appeal, and to surrender ground on choice in the process. We bet at least a few refuse.
5. Immigration is a less potent but still meaningful wild-card; 20 House votes rely on the Senate ultimately agreeing to loosen its language and let illegal immigrants purchase coverage on the exchanges with their own money, and to extend subsidies not only to citizens, but to anyone who is in the US legally. 15 Senate Democrats hail from states that Obama either lost, or carried with a 5 percent margin or less. These swing-votes hold inordinate power, and are much more conservative on immigration than their blue-state peers; we believe they may balk at these House provisions.
6. The House bill’s largest source of funding is an incremental tax on the wealthy, which the aforementioned 15 Democratic Senators from red- or swing-states cannot support. The Senate Bill’s largest source of funding is taxes on relatively more expensive ‘Cadillac’ health plans, which the union friendly House cannot support. In effect, each has settled on a plan that the other cannot pass.
Me: Never underestimate the power of numbers. And the Ds do have a big majority in the Senate. And what do they fear more, passing the bill or not passing it? Obama might still sign something, but it might not resemble comprehensive healthcare reform anymore. We await the CBO score ….