After nearly a year of back-and-forth across the aisle and between a bitterly divided Congress, President Obama on Wednesday put his foot down on the issue of health care, telling lawmakers it's time for an up or down vote.
Without a 60-seat supermajority to break a GOP filibuster, Obama is invoking reconciliation, a controversial procedure that would only need 50 votes plus the vice president's to get health care reform through the Senate. But some pundits say the gambit could just as easily doom the bill.
Here's how troops on the Hill are responding to Obama's gamble:
- Obama is finally playing "hard ball" with an aggressive GOP, Lee Brodie writes for CNBC. The president's move to block Republicans' right to filibuster and move for an immediate health vote shows he's done with negotiations, Brodie writes, saying the time for talk is over: "and the President doesn't seem interested in returning to the bargaining table."
- The president's move is certainly gutsy, but also shows that he's willing to compromise, Froma Harrop writes for RealClearPolitics.com. Republican naysayers have called Obama everything from too-far-left to socialist, while anti-Obama Dems' bread and butter has been calling the president a weakling -- but the call to vote on health care has proven both of them wrong, Harrop writes. "He's tackling problems that conservatives say only they have the gumption to fix," she argues.
- Long-term, Obama's up-or-down demand will help to redraw the boundaries of bipartisanship, E.J. Dionne Jr. writes for the Washington Post. Critics who have said Obama is too willing to bend to accomodate a bipartisan agenda, take note: "those days are over," Dionne Jr. writes. "What he's (rightly) unwilling to do is give the minority veto power over a bill that has deliberately and painfully worked its way through the regular legislative process," he says.
- Conservative blogger Hugh Hewitt says putting a landmark bill to a simple majority vote is wrong and calls for Republicans to throw up legislative roadblocks. "Given that the proposed use of reconciliation is an illegitimate use of the procedure, the Senate GOP ought to be preparing to counter the jam down with a flood of amendments, each one of which requires an up or down vote," Hewitt writes.
- No matter the outcome, Obama wins points for playing a confident -- but risky -- hand, Jay Bookman writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Obama's gamble has set in motion a chain of events that could lead either to the health bill's successful passing or to a long, hard-fought but ultimately lost fight by the Democrats, Bookman writes. "Either way, Obama's gone all in," he writes. "It's time to see the river card."