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Raise Your Hand If You Saw All This Coming

That's Ezra Klein's hand you see up in the air right now. He writes:

There is nothing about this moment in the legislative process that was not predictable. Nothing. Zero. Not one statement by one player.

I'm not sure I agree entirely. I, for one, didn't expect the Blue Dogs to flex quite this much muscle in the House. I also didn't expect the Senate Finance Committee to have quite this much trouble coming up with money to pay for health reform--in part because I didn't expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take the tax exclusion off the table.

Still, Ezra may have had more realistic expectations than I did. And his broader point, certainly, is spot-on. We shouldn't be surprised that this is hard. And we shouldn't assume that, just because it's hard, it won't get done.

Among other things, the White House is just starting to engage. And it looks like they're willing to play hardball. During a speech at Children's Hospital in Washington, President Obama went after the Republicans for trying to defeat health reform as a means for defeating him.

Just the other day, one Republican senator said--and I'm quoting him now--"If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses, and breaking America's economy.

Later, in a call to progressive bloggers, Obama made clear that if Republican intransigence made it impossible to pass reform with the sixty votes necessary to break a filibuster, he would look seriously at the possibility of using the budget reconciliation process, where a mere fifty votes can pass legislation. As reported in the Huffington Post:

"Keep in mind that the way we had structured the reconciliation issue several months ago, we moved forward on the basis of the assumption that we could get a bill through the regular order and the regular process by October," Obama said. "If I think that is not possible, then we are going to look at all of our options, including reconciliation. Not because that is my preferred option but because what I think would be unacceptable for the American people is inaction."

Obama and his allies have spent a lot of time courting Republicans. But Republicans have not, by and large, returned the favor. Instead, they've gone looking for a fight. Now it looks like they have one.

--Jonathan Cohn