I will provide an overview of the legislative landscape, then walk through each path. What follows is highly judgmental, and I can prove none of it. It can and will change rapidly beginning seven days from now. My only defense is that over a 15-year period a President and two Senators paid me in part to do this kind of analysis. You get it for free.
The stuff about the reconciliation process (Path 3) is must read because I think that is what the Senate is going to try if there is no bipartisan bill. I think if the Dems take Path 3 they will be accused (rightfully) of ramming a bill down Americas throat and they will pay dearly for it in 2010. The rhetoric of forcing a majority of Americans to accept something they clearly don't want as if they were serfs will not sit well with millions of people. It will also make Obama a one term President as well.
- I presume House moderates will be pulling way back in September after getting beat up in August. Will they insist that the House bill be pulled more to the center, or will they instead prefer the bill to stay left so they can vote no? Can Speaker Pelosi get 218 votes for the deal agreed to by some Blue Dogs in committee in late July? (This is a risk on any path.)
- As a procedural matter this path has a slash-and-burn feel to it. Take all the substantive arguments you heard in July and August, add to them procedural unfairness arguments, and turn up the volume a few notches. The rhetoric will get even hotter.
- Assuming at least some moderate Democrats oppose the bill on this path, there will be bipartisan opposition to this bill. That makes it harder for Democratic leaders to hold nervous members voting aye, and will undermine the partisan attacks I would anticipate from the White House and Democratic leaders.