The big question I’ve had this week with regard to health care reform is, “Why is it taking so long to vote?” The path forward is that the House will pass the Senate bill, and then the House and Senate will pass a small bill that amends the Senate bill by way of reconciliation, so that it can be passed with a simple majority in the Senate. My impression was that the holdup was due to the Democrats having insufficient votes to pass both bills, but that’s actually not the case.

Jonathan Cohn explains:

But, as Lori Montomery explains today in the Washington Post, the devil really is in the details. And the devil, in this case, has a name: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In order to satisfy the requirements for the budget reconciliation process, through which Congress will consider the amendments, CBO must certify that the changes will reduce the deficit both in the decade following enactment and the decade following that.

By “reduce the deficit,” I mean reduce the deficit relative to whatever the Senate health care reform bill would do on its own. And that is no small thing. The Senate bill, as written, was projected to save quite a bit of money. As such, the amendments must result in reform, as a whole, saving even more money than the CBO projected originally.

So basically legislators are tinkering with the reconciliation bill and then letting the CBO score it until they get a bill that accomplishes what’s necessary and is eligible for reconciliation. Once we have a bill that’s been scored acceptably by the CBO, we’ll see if the Democrats have enough votes to send it to Obama for his signature.