Will the Democrats "go it alone" on health care?
Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.
Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.
Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said the heated opposition was evidence that Republicans had made a political calculation to draw a line against any health care changes, the latest in a string of major administration proposals that Republicans have opposed.
“The Republican leadership,” Mr. Emanuel said, “has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day.”
The Democratic shift may not make producing a final bill much easier. The party must still reconcile the views of moderate and conservative Democrats worried about the cost and scope of the legislation with those of more liberal lawmakers determined to win a government-run insurance option to compete with private insurers.
On the other hand, such a change could alter the dynamic of talks surrounding health care legislation, and even change the substance of a final bill. With no need to negotiate with Republicans, Democrats might be better able to move more quickly, relying on their large majorities in both houses.
Democratic senators might feel more empowered, for example, to define the authority of the nonprofit insurance cooperatives that are emerging as an alternative to a public insurance plan.
Republicans have used the Congressional break to dig in hard against the overhaul outline drawn by Democrats. The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Jon Kyl of Arizona, is the latest to weigh in strongly, saying Tuesday that the public response lawmakers were seeing over the summer break should persuade Democrats to scrap their approach and start over.
First, Senator Kyl is correct. It would be a better idea to scrap the all of the proposals, and start anew, and this time with REAL bipartisan support. Representative Henry Waxman started compiling the House version that is out and available for people to read, and it included decades-old ideas on how to turn the health care industry over to the government. The people have spoken, and Congress -- along with the president -- would be wise to heed their outcry lest they face the public's wrath at the ballot box next year, and possibly in 2012.
Next, to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the GOP is working to defeat the legislation because they have listened to their constituents and their worries. They are worried about what health care might be like if this reform passes, and it's becoming obvious, as each town hall unfolds, that the people have read more of this bill than those in Congress have. When confronted by the public those from Congress deride their constituents. Or they accuse them of bearing Nazi images, like swastikas. (This is despite the fact that those people have already been outed as left-wing LaRouche kooks and not GOP/conservative, grass-roots activists/concerned citizens.) Or, there are those in Congress accusing colleagues of treason because of their lack of support. In short, it's not the GOP that's derailing the legislation. It's the people, and the Democrats aren't getting a lot of help from their own ranks.
How will the Democrats push through the legislation without no GOP support? It's a congressional rule known as reconciliation. Though the Times piece doesn't mention the term, it's implicit. This has been a threat maintained by Democrats for the last couple of months, most notably by Senator Charles Schumer. The problem with this train of thought for the Democrats is that it's, literally, a train wreck. Reconciliation is used for contentious budget legislation so as to avoid a filibuster. It has never been used for legislation like the health care reform. It wasn't meant to be used in that matter. In fact, a congressional rule known as The Byrd Rule specifically outlines six cases in which reconciliation can be used should a budget bill have extraneous cases.
It should be noted that in any case outside of the six scenarios, a Senator may call a procedural ruling, and unless 60 senators object, the offending provision would be stripped from the bill in contention. But if the Democrats push for reconciliation on health care, the opponents have other procedural remedies to use against the Democrats should the Democrats go for reconciliation. In essence they would grind the Senate to a halt, and demand that each and every bill brought to the floor be read aloud. Any nominees would be stopped immediately, and the Democrats would be powerless to stop it. That, folks, would go on for one year. (Imagine these bills, thousands of pages long, having to be read in their entirety before a vote is granted.)
Reconciliation is the ultimate nuclear option, and if the Democrats aren't careful they could watch their decision blow up in their faces. Harry Reid might be a little off his rocker, but he's not stupid. He knows that reconciliation is a losing proposition. But are they really threatening it because of Republican opposition? Why would they? They literally control both Houses and don't need the GOP to vote for any of this. I think that the real target of the reconciliation threats are the Blue Dogs; the same Blue Dogs that aren't showing a ton of enthusiasm for any sort of reform package that resembles the ones on the table right now.
We urged people to confront the Blue Dogs during the August recess because they were the ones that could make or break this legislation. It seems as though they've heard from their constituents, and they're seeing the writing on the wall. They see their constituents concerns, and they're hearing the promises from them to end the Blue Dogs' political careers. Should the Blue Dogs hold firm, and stay as a focused bloc in Congress, the Democrats will have no choice but to move for reconciliation to pass the legislation. If they do that, the Blue Dogs will be safe, the GOP will be safe, and the Democrats will have signed their own death certificates when it comes to next year's midterms. Oh, and Maxine Waters was correct -- the Blue Dog problems are the fault of Rahm Emanuel, and his strategy in retaking the Congress. Let this be a lesson about how to keep your dogs on a leash.
Sure, we'll get screwed if this passes, but so will the Democrats. In 2006 liberal activists laughed at the GOP for squandering their majorities in twelve years. Who will be laughing when we point to the Democrats squandering their majorities in four years because they just had to ram through a liberal agenda that the nation flat-out rejected?