When the White House released its budget, I said the president’s effort to reform health care and cap carbon emissions were "scorpions in a bottle" — only one could make it through Congress this year.
This week, the White House and House Democrats made their choice: health care is the survivor.
As the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have reported, House Democrats (backed by the White House) plan to write a budget resolution that allows health care to be passed by a simple majority (through the so-called "reconciliation" process) if a bipartisan compromise isn’t reached by September.
Cap and trade will not get the same budget protection, and there are nowhere near 60 votes for it. Keeping it out of the reconciliation process recognizes reality: Congress can’t pass it in the middle of a recession.
Health care is different.
Even though the president’s plan to shave deductions is all but dead, Democrats are determined to get something done. Key Republicans are part of the process, and the business community is playing along for now.
If the bipartisan talks eventually fall apart, the White House believes President Barack Obama will still get credit for trying to reach out, which will soften the blow if the reconciliation hammer comes down in September.
For now, key Senate Republicans like Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., continue to work with their Democratic counterparts on a bipartisan approach.
Key question: will the Democratic threat to go it alone ultimately encourage Republicans to compromise or give them an excuse to just say no?