Focus all your attention on Speaker Pelosi’s attempts to get 216 votes. If she can lock them down I think there’s a four in five chance there will be a law (or two).I don't understand. If Pelosi gets 216 votes, which is the current number needed to pass...isn't that game over? Of course, she could get up to 216 and then have another Member resign (they're dropping like flies, no?), but I'm really puzzled by what Hennessey means here. If the House passes the Senate bill, then health care reform is law. Do Republicans not see that? Is there something else here that I'm missing?
Now, it is true that the House could pass health care reform (the Senate bill) without the reconciliation patch eventually passing. There certainly are plenty of hurdles: it will have to pass the House and then pass the Senate; if it changes in the Senate either because an amendment passes, or because any provision is stricken as a Byrd rule violation, then it has to go back to the House, which could then pass the Senate version, or send back yet another version...you get the picture. However, as complex as that sounds, the reality is, as I've been pointing out for some time now, that the substance of the reconciliation bill should be an easy vote -- my phrasing has been that it's all ice cream, no spinach. So, on balance, I think that the reconciliation bill is not much of a hurdle at all; I've said that I'd bet on it exceeding 58 votes in the Senate. But again: if the House passes the Senate bill and Obama signs it, health care reform is a fact; reconciliation only changes what it looks like, not whether it passes at all.
So essentially, I think Hennessey is wrong in his analysis of the "patch" part of pass-then-patch. He gives health care reform about a 40% chance of passing. But he actually thinks that its 50/50 for the Senate bill to pass the House, and then reduces that because of what he envisions happening later. Since as far as I can see whatever happens later, as important as it may be politically (it involves getting rid of the Nelson thing, among other fixes), doesn't change whether health care reform has become law, I'm putting Hennessey down as saying that passage is 50/50 -- pretty much exactly where liberal Nate Silver comes down.
(And yes, I think the chances are better than they do, although I definitely have not said that it "can't fail", as Jonathan Chait pointed out in an earlier round).