We've heard a lot of discouraging news in the past few days, but this is a pretty good idea. (Unless they pass the mandate first and can't pass the public option, which presents a whole other set of problems.) Let's see if they can pull this off:
The White House and Senate Democratic leaders, seeing little chance of bipartisan support for their health-care overhaul, are considering a strategy shift that would break the legislation into two parts and pass the most expensive provisions solely with Democratic votes.
The idea is the latest effort by Democrats to escape the morass caused by delays in Congress, as well as voter discontent crystallized in angry town-hall meetings. Polls suggest the overhaul plans are losing public support, giving Republicans less incentive to go along.
Democrats hope a split-the-bill plan would speed up a vote and help President Barack Obama meet his goal of getting a final measure by year's end.
Senators on the Finance Committee are pushing ahead with talks on a bipartisan bill. Democratic leaders say they hope those talks succeed but increasingly are preparing for the possibility that they do not.
Most legislation in the Senate requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but certain budget-related measures can pass with 51 votes through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation.
In recent days, Democratic leaders have concluded they can pack more of their health overhaul plans under this procedure, congressional aides said. They might even be able to include a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers, a key demand of the party's liberal wing, but that remains uncertain.
Other parts of the Democratic plan would be put to a separate vote in the Senate, including most of the insurance regulations that have been central to Mr. Obama's health-care message.
That bill would likely set new rules for insurers, such as requiring they accept anyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. This portion of the health-care overhaul has already drawn some Republican support and wouldn't involve new spending, leading Democratic leaders to believe they could clear the 60-vote hurdle.
Yeah, well, I'll believe that one when I see it. I predict there won't be one Republican vote - but I'll be more than happy to be proved wrong.