As we await the kickoff of today’s Big Health Care Smackdown Kabuki Whatever, let’s not forget how the incentives align for the two parties:

OUTCOME Democrats Republicans
Mainstream Base Mainstream Base
Bipartisan Passage – Major W W w L
Bipartisan Passage – Minor W w w l
Reconciliation – Major w W l W
Reconciliation – Minor w w l W
Nothing Passes L L w W


Those are the five options – major or minor reform with bipartisan support, major or minor reform by reconciliation, or nada. Major bipartisan reform would be a huge win for the Dems, so the Repubs won’t let that happen. Likewise, the Dems can’t afford to be left holding an empty bag. Any reconciliation would energize both bases, and any compromise would discourage the bases and encourage the moderates on both sides. The only likely results that today can prepare us for will be:

1) A moderate HCR package with a few R votes

2) A moderate HCR package passed through reconciliation

The third option, a massive package (including a Public Option) passed by reconciliation, is … unlikely. If it happened, all the back-biting we’ve seen in Washington thus far will have been a tickle-fight compared to the warring to come.

Let’s watch and see!