Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All is not lost in the health care fight

We're often accused of being too optimistic. Whether it's readers here, or friends we have in the non-Internet world, some tell us we wear rose-colored glasses far too much. That's not true at all, but it serves no purpose to maneuver through the swamps of political discourse as an eternal pessimist.

Could the health care non-reform pass? Yes it could.

Will it? I wouldn't be too sure about that, and I've got two people who back up my optimistic assessment that this fight is far from over.

First, Rich Lowry gives us five reasons why this could still fail to pass:

1. Public Revulsion. The bill was already under water in every major public-opinion poll, and opposed by a margin of almost 2 to 1 in the latest CNN poll. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll put its support at freezing, 32 percent. A few ticks downward and the bill will be in the 20s.

Is anything that has happened recently likely to change the trajectory? The Reid bill just got even longer, and the new version includes more tax increases. Even by the standards of the United States Congress, the process has been hide-the-children ugly: massive payoffs to the on-the-fence senators and a heedless, late-night rush to pass something, anything. The Democrats have shown no inclination to let public opinion hold them back, but the stiff headwind makes everything a little harder and reduces an already-small margin for error.

One subset of public opinion will be particularly important: Nebraska. If Nelson is perceived to have made a career-defining choice that will end his designation as a conservative Democrat and a pro-lifer, and if he takes an immediate dive in the polls, it will cast a pall over other Blue Dogs inclined to play ball. In that case, the various payoffs on offer won’t seem worth the larger cost of supporting the bill. It’s too early to tell exactly how it’s going to play in Nebraska, but Nebraska Right to Life has been appropriately excoriating about Nelson’s betrayal. ...

2. The Stupak Dozen. Nelson cut a deal so far short of the Stupak language in the House that the National Right to Life Committee is going to score the cloture vote on the bill as a vote to subsidize abortion on demand. That won’t matter to anyone in the Senate, but it could have a major effect in the House. After her initial 220–215 victory, Pelosi can afford to lose only two net votes. Bart Stupak has declared the Nelson language unacceptable and vows to oppose the final bill if it doesn’t include the restrictions contained in his amendment. As John McCormack points out, earlier in the year Stupak was part of a bloc of Democrats who wrote a letter to Pelosi saying they’d stand against “any health-care-reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or -subsidized health-insurance plan.” Eleven of those signatories voted for the House bill.

Then there’s Joseph Cao, the Louisiana Republican who voted for the bill at the last moment during the first House vote but has said he would vote against the bill — even if doing so might cost him his seat — if it funds abortion. Surely, not all of the Stupak Dozen have that level of commitment. The full weight of the Democratic establishment will come crashing down on them if they threaten the bill. Still, it would take only two or three of them to upset the entire effort. One option would be simply to give them what they want. But will Barbara Boxer stand for the Stupak language in the Senate? This has been a devilish dilemma for the Democrats from the beginning, and it hasn’t gotten any easier as the stakes have gotten higher.

3. Who Pays? As a practical matter, it should be relatively easy to find a compromise on revenue sources. That doesn’t involve a hot-button cultural issue or a matter of deep principle like abortion. But the differences in financing between the Senate and the House bills are vast. The Senate relies on a so-called Cadillac tax on pricey insurance plans, the House on a surtax on the wealthy. The Senate long ago declared the surtax anathema, and the House is just as dismissive of the Cadillac tax. The unions hate the Cadillac tax, since they enjoy such plans themselves, the fruit of collective bargaining. If the House gives in, it will create even more unrest on the Left. If the Senate gives in, it could upset the fragile deal for 60. If this disagreement over financing doesn’t represent as dire a threat to the future of the bill as the other factors we are cataloguing, it’s still a stumbling block.

4. Feeling Blue. “Blue Dog Democrat” is understandably becoming a term of derision, denoting a willingness to object only enough to be noticed before caving in to the Democratic leadership. Yet the Blue Dogs still have to be a worry for supporters of the bill. When Obamacare first passed the House, 28 Blue Dog Democrats, more than half of their 52-member coalition, were on board. This is a pool that surely includes some very nervous votes. As Michael Barone points out, nearly 70 percent of the Blue Dogs represent districts that voted for John McCain. A vote for this bill must look even more like a potentially career-ending decision now than it did the first time around.

Keep an eye especially on the Pennsylvanians. Rep. Patrick Murphy already has four GOP opponents in his suburban Philadelphia district. After supporting round one of Obamacare, the auto bailouts, TARP, and the stimulus, Murphy may be looking for a way back toward the center. Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Christopher Carney, both elected in the 2006 anti-Bush sweep, represent blue-collar districts in the Keystone State in which Obama failed to reach 50 percent last year. You can bet that trio is watching the polls. Other Blue Dogs are simply getting out. In the past month, Reps. Bart Gordon (D., Tenn.), Dennis Moore (D., Kan.), and John Tanner (D., Tenn.) have all announced their retirements. ...

5. The Left. Progressives are pained, at what should be their very moment of triumph. The Senate dashed their dreams of the public option. Without it, many on the left are abandoning ship. “This is the real sticking point,” said Howard Dean last Sunday. “There hasn’t been much fight from the White House on that.” It was always unlikely, no matter how much Bernie Sanders grumbled, that left-wing senators would block the deal. It’s easier to imagine a firebrand or two in the House doing it. No fewer than 60 liberals in the House imprudently made a pledge to oppose a bill without a public option. Almost all of them can be expected to eat it. But what if one or two don’t? Public-option scold Rep. Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) is continuing to pressure Obama to move further left. “What we’re saying is now’s your moment, big guy, you’re the Mariano Rivera of this situation,” he said to MSNBC last week. “You’re going to come in at the end, and there’s still a chance to do it.” That’s not going to happen, but perhaps a few of Weiner’s colleagues are ideologically besotted enough to lash out at the president’s “betrayal” when he doesn’t “come in” the way they hope he will.

Following up Mr. Lowry's excellent analysis is Bill Kristol from the Weekly Standard with his take on how this might still fail to pass:

I’ve assumed for the last couple of days that the Democrats would succeed in passing the health care bill, and that our job was to make sure it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. Now I’m not so sure the legislation can’t still be derailed.

Two reasons:

First: the reaction to the deal-making. One friend e-mails, “uncharacteristically, I'm getting calls from relatives who want to talk about all the unseemly deals being cut to get the health bill through...that seems to have hit a nerve, as much as the price-tag.” That’s my sense too. Now combine the unseemly deals with Reid’s
pathetic defense of them yesterday. According to Reid, “this legislation is no different than the defense bill we just spent $600 billion on." As Dana Milbank points out in the Washington Post, “That would be the bill with more than 1,700 pet-project earmarks.” So when Reid says, "It's no different than other pieces of legislation," he’s giving up a lot—health care reform was supposed to be different. It was special, historic, a moral imperative, and so forth. If it’s no different, if it’s just another piece of cobbled-together legislation, why not kill this mess and start over?

Second: the issue Jim DeMint raised on the floor of the Senate last night. Why did the authors of the legislation want to specially protect the Independent Medicare Advisory Board by
making it difficult for future Congresses to legislate in that area? Because the heart of the bill is the attempt to get control of our health care permanently in the hands of federal bureaucrats, who would allegedly know better than doctors and patients what’s good for them, and who would cut access to care and the quality of care so there’s more money left over for various big government liberal social programs.

As people learn more about the sleazy sweetheart deals and the creepy permanent death panels—this thing could still go down in the House next month in the face of popular outrage.

What the Democrats are avoiding is the ire from the nation. Surely there will be a severe backlash should the Democrats actually pull off passing this monstrous boondoggle. Pelosi claims she can live with losing 30-40 seats int he midterms. Reid's been silent on the midterms, and most likely due to the fact that his neck appears to be on the chopping block. (He's trailing Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden right now, and his approval numbers sit at 38% amongst his constituents in Nevada and it reflects in the pre-election polls that shows he would lose to either GOP candidates.) Will Harry fall on his sword for Barry? Not bloody likely, but we never gave too much credit to Leftist Democrats when it comes to brains.

But there's no avoiding the outrage of the voters, no matter how much voter fraud Democrats may be relying on in the upcoming midterms. Let me put it succinctly, and pardon the language: People are downright, bloody-well pissed off. (And as I've said often, if you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention.) People are paying attention because this isn't the change they had in mind when they trusted the Democrats with one-party rule and power in Washington, DC. Seizing car companies and mortgage companies? Spending like there's no tomorrow putting this nation in trillions of dollars of debt that future generations can't hope to pay back? The Chicago thug politics that demonize American citizens? Sending union thugs to rough up American citizens for voicing their Constitutionally-protected freedom of speech?

Were the Founding Fathers alive today, they wouldn't recognize the nation they worked to create. In fact, they might even urge the citizens to rise up against their federal overlords because those in office now share eerie similarities to King George. They openly rebelled against that tyranny. Optimism will only care one so far before you get fed up and start acting. Now is the time to act to ensure these fools are tossed from office; never to return to harm this nation again. And they'll learn that lesson the hard way in November should they continue on this fool's errand as water carriers for a Statist like Barry. His change isn't what this nation needs. The change this nation needs is a return to common sense; the sort initiated by the Founders to solve our problems, not exacerbate them.

Publius II


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