Here is a basic fact: If the House Democrats voted tomorrow to approve the Senate bill, health care reform would become the law of the land.
The president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi should push the House to accept the fundamentally sound Senate bill. If they still cannot garner enough votes from their own caucus, they should alter the Senate bill slightly with parallel legislation that could be passed with budget reconciliation.
Here is a basic fact for the New York Times editorial board: Harry Reid could take the health care bill that passed that House and put it on the Senate floor. If Republicans try to filibuster, Reid can call a constitutional point of order saying that the Senate rules, which allow unlimited obstructionism, stopping a constitutional majority vote from acting to pass a bill, are unconstitutional. Or, Reid could put up a rule change to drop the 60-vote threshold for cloture to 50; if Republicans filibuster the rule change, Reid could call a constitutional point of order saying that any rule changes can't be filibustered. Vice President Joe Biden, as President of the Senate, can uphold the point of order, effectively forcing a simple majority vote on the motion. If it gets 50 votes (with Biden casting the tie breaking vote), the filibuster is killed. The House bill would then get an up or down majority vote in the Senate. If it passed, it would go the the President's desk for his signature, and the House health care bill could be law by Tuesday.
Now I doubt Harry Reid would ever use the “constitutional option” like Republican Senate Majority leader Bill Frist almost did back in 2005, but it does not change the fact that Senate Democrats could. The Senate could approve the bill that passed the House and have it signed into law by next week. If Senate Democrats are really fed up with Republican obstructionism, at any time, if they really wanted to, they could take steps to end it.
While it might be a “fact” that the House could pass the Senate bill unchanged, it is also a “fact” that the Senate could quickly pass the House bill unchanged. Maybe the reason the Senate is so dysfunctional is that major news organizations like the New York Times seem to ignore the simple facts about what the Senate can actually do, and, instead, lets senators get away with pretending there are no ways around their own made-up rules. The 60-vote threshold is not part of the Constitution, nor is it carved in stone. It can be changed. It should be changed.