THIS COULD HAVE BEEN A HILL TO DIE ON
I understand that student loan reform was effectively dead in the Senate, after passing the House last year, because of the usual Republican intransigence and the objections of certain Judas Democrats, whose fealty to banks meant that there was no chance to get to 60 votes -- so I guess I understand why Dems want to bundle student loan reform with health care reform in a reconciliation bill that will need only a simple majority. (Including student loan reform in the reconciliation bill also helps Democrats meet the deficit-reduction target mandated by the Senate parliamentarian.)
But I say the Democrats should have taking student loan reform to the floor and let the opponents filibuster. The Dems should have turned this into the top news story for a few days, rather than health care reform; there should have been advocacy group ad wars, with supporters of reform on the offense, and fired-up presidential speeches in auditoriums in the heartland. Make it Priority #1. Then take it to the floor and let Republicans block it.
(With the fallback plan that, after you've let the Party of Bunnings -- and, yeah, a few Democrats -- make abundantly clear whose side they're on, if public anger doesn't force them to cave you can pull the bill before a vote and then attach it to health care.)
I'm not wild about attaching student loan reform to health care because I still don't think HCR is going to pass. What's more, I think it would benefit Democrats to change the subject. It's seemed for months as if health care swallows up everything else on the political agenda, and here it's literally absorbing an unrelated item. Which it's going to taint.
Just put the damn health care bill aside and fight another fight, which will have a clearer people-vs.-the-powerful narrative. At the very least, voters will see that Republicans block everything, not just health care. If health care is all most voters see, you can't blame them if they think GOP intransigence is only on that one issue, not across the board.