Obamacare: It’s Not Over Until He Signs It

October 27th, 2009 at 11:18 am | 14 Comments |

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Did the Democrats become Calvinists when we weren’t looking? Lately they’ve been talking an awful lot about predestination. They want to claim that Obamacare’s victory is foreordained, that the health care debate is over and – surprise, surprise – the liberals won.

So begins Mr. Continetti’s thoughtful editorial, “The Inevitability Myth,” in the current issue of The Weekly Standard.  He offers three reasons why Obamacare isn’t inevitable.

The Landscape. “Our government rests in public opinion,” Abraham Lincoln said in 1856. “Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government.”

Public opinion is not on the Democrats’ side. Most Americans remain satisfied with their health care…

The Money. A glance at the polls reveals the alarm at our ballooning national debt. The Congressional Budget Office concluded that the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill would pay for itself in its first 10 years, but only by imposing taxes and cutting Medicare. There is no reason to believe that the reform that comes to a floor vote will resemble the Finance bill. This bill is far too stingy for liberals. They are ready to add to the debt in order to achieve their social vision. They want universal coverage. They want more generous subsidies.

But a left-liberal health care reform is a dicey proposition…

The Calendar. Obama originally wanted a bill before summer’s end. Didn’t happen. Back in September, lawmakers expected Pelosi to hold a vote by the end of that month. No go. Then the deadline was the end of October. Another fantasy. Now we’re told the vote won’t come before early November.

But November features off-year gubernatorial elections that look favorable for Republicans…

(The first point, on polling, is drawn out and explored in a must-read op-ed by Arthur Brooks in Monday’s Wall Street Journal.)

It’s not a legislative victory until there’s, well, signed legislation.  The point is hardly profound, but it is important to remember.  Part of the success to date for the Obama White House is in pushing the inevitability argument.

So – just to establish that I haven’t consumed any Kool-Aid – I recognize that Democrats have the momentum.  Party divisions have quieted down; with a fall vote possibly days away, they maintain a massive majority in the House and filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (that even death and state law haven’t reversed); and practically every lobbyist in Washington supports the effort.

Strangely, though, just as we seem on the brink of a vote, with every moderate Democratic Senator and a couple of Republican liberal Senators in need of reminding how important this all is, the GOP has opted for a bizarre, populist strategy.  Read the bill.  Some conservative allies have amended this, to include study the bill.

It’s difficult to argue against that point.  It’s also difficult to take it very seriously.  The problem with ObamaCare will not be found in page xxx of the final Senate draft.  The problem with ObamaCare is front and center: At the end of the day, the package of reforms is a dud.  Even the “moderate” Baucus bill is pricey and clunky.  At a time of massive deficits, Washington would spend more; at a time of ripe with government mismanagement, Washington would control more.

Republicans have opted out of the process.  Years from now, historians will decide whether that bold approach was tactically shrewd.  But there’s plenty to think about today: it’s the fourth quarter, we’re behind, and the other team has the ball.

The GOP needs to hit hard on its criticisms.  The GOP must offer plausible alternatives.  Athwart history, perhaps.

Perhaps not.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • balconesfault

    The GOP needs to hit hard on its criticisms.

    The chess match here might have been decided when the Republicans went full-metal-teabag for the month of August, deciding to try to shut down the ability of Congressmen to dialogue with their constituents on the issue while throwing the proverbial kitchen sink (“Death Panels!”) at the process in an attempt to kill it.

    Have you ever heard of the crude term “shooting your wad”?

    The GOP must offer plausible alternatives.

    Aye, there’s the rub. But the time for that was in committee meetings last summer … particularly the excruciatingly long period that Baucus held up the Finance Committee waiting for the 3 Republicans in the “Gang of Six” to bring those plausible alternatives to the table.

    Alas, that train may have left the station. Eight years of Republican control of the White House and largely of Congress, followed by months of Obama trying to get Republicans to sign up to be part of the process, really didn’t produce anything that moves the country towards universal coverage – which is the legislative destination a majority of Americans want.

    It will be hard for Republicans at this juncture to seriously advance the idea “if you just slow down and give us more time, we’ll come up with something better”.

  • seeker656

    We had an election last year. Health care reform was debated at length during the campaign and the Democrats won. They have an obligation to enact heath care reform now. Elections matter. It’s democracy.

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    “The GOP needs to hit hard on its criticisms. The GOP must offer plausible alternatives. ”

    Didn’t the GOP already do this when it criticized the “Death Panels” and said that major reform is not needed because emergency room care is available to all?

    The fact that Gratzer can’t come up with a better plan for the GOP is all the proof one needs that the GOP is a joke and a long, long way from revival.

  • sinz54

    BREAKING: Sen. Lieberman just announced he’s going to join with the Republicans in filibustering the Reid bill.

  • sinz54

    balconesfault: ye, there’s the rub. But the time for that was in committee meetings last summer … particularly the excruciatingly long period that Baucus held up the Finance Committee waiting for the 3 Republicans in the “Gang of Six” to bring those plausible alternatives to the table.
    Senator Snowe did bring a plausible alternative to the table: Her “trigger” option. IOW, she was willing to accept a public option in the future, if the private insurers didn’t shape up to her liking. She was working with Baucus for months. Obama even praised her willingness to work with Democrats.

    What did she get for her cooperation all these months? Yesterday, she got stabbed in the back by Majority Leader Reid. Not only did he dump her proposed alternative and go with the public option now as liberals demanded, but he refused to even allow her alternative to go to the CBO for scoring. That’s not just rejection, that’s humiliation. And over on TPMCafe and HuffPo, they’re gleeful that she got thrown under the bus.

    The same thing would have happened to any other moderate Republicans who dared to work with the Dems. They would just give the Dems sufficient political cover, until the day came for your liberal friends to throw them under the bus along with Sen. Snowe.

    After how Snowe was treated, I suggest that no Republican have anything to do with the Dems. In fact, they would be better off going back home to their districts and states and start campaigning now.

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Oct 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    “BREAKING: Sen. Lieberman just announced he’s going to join with the Republicans in filibustering the Reid bill.”

    ………Guess that means they are going to have to go the reconciliation route…..what a surprise

  • ProfNickD

    No, it’s over. Lieberman announced he would not vote for cloture, meaning Reid can’t get the bill to the floor.

    The reconciliation threat was just Reid blowing smoke. It won’t be used.

    And that just about wraps things up: health care reform is dead.

  • balconesfault

    Senator Snowe did bring a plausible alternative to the table: Her “trigger” option.

    Except as has been noted – trigger options historically never get “triggered”, even when nothing happens. It is simply a way for legislators to kick the can down the road when they’re getting populist pressure they don’t want to act on.

    Yesterday, she got stabbed in the back by Majority Leader Reid.

    And today, by Joe Lieberman, who essentially said that he couldn’t favor a trigger option as well. (then again, he calls the public option an expanded entitlement, which also suggests that he’s just in it for attention)

    But seriously – grow up. Four committees passed bills with public options – Harry Reid had to make a decision whether to “stab in the back” all those Dems who had voted for a public option on those bills, or Ms. Snowe. Seriously?

    If there was a quid pro quo on the table that if Ms. Snowe would vote to advance the bill out of committee if the Dems would not bring a bill to the Senate floor with a public option, she was “stabbed in the back”. I seriously doubt that this was the case, and suggest you are intentionally slandering Senator Reid unless you have some proof that he made such a deal.

    Is that your final answer? That there was such a deal, and Senator Reid broke it?

    If there is any stabbing in the back, clearly it is being done by Lieberman – who certainly has the right to vote against the bill when it comes to the floor, but is absolutely acting in bad faith by signaling that he will vote to filibuster legislation that is being advanced by the Democrats he caucuses, and who gave him a committee chair.

  • balconesfault

    profnickd No, it’s over. Lieberman announced he would not vote for cloture, meaning Reid can’t get the bill to the floor.

    The reconciliation threat was just Reid blowing smoke. It won’t be used.

    LOL. Harry Reid stuck his neck out against the wishes of most Dems when he gave Lieberman a committee chair. If Reid allows Lieberman to kill healthcare reform at this juncture, there is absolutely no way that Reid keeps his Senate Majority Leader role past this session, no matter what the outcome of his re-election bid in Nevada (the Dems might leave him there through the election in order to up the chances of hanging onto the seat).

    The net result of healthcare failing would be Chuck Schumer becoming Senate Majority Leader in 2011, if not sooner. I hope that gives you pleasant dreams.

  • ottovbvs

    …….actually I’ve since seen it reported Lieberman would vote for cloture but against a bill with the PO……..we’ll have to see what develops

    profnickd // Oct 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    ‘The reconciliation threat was just Reid blowing smoke. It won’t be used.’

    ……you have that in writing do you from Reid

  • balconesfault

    …….actually I’ve since seen it reported Lieberman would vote for cloture but against a bill with the PO……..we’ll have to see what develops

    Lieberman has stated that he reserves the right to vote for filibuster if the bill isn’t to his liking … and that he doesn’t like the public option. He hasn’t closed the door yet.

    He has succeeded in achieving what Joe Lieberman always wants more than anything else on earth – to be the center of attention for the moment.

  • sinz54

    balconesfault: If there was a quid pro quo on the table that if Ms. Snowe would vote to advance the bill out of committee if the Dems would not bring a bill to the Senate floor with a public option, she was “stabbed in the back”. I seriously doubt that this was the case, and suggest you are intentionally slandering Senator Reid unless you have some proof that he made such a deal.
    You dodged my point completely.

    Senator Snowe had the guts to buck her own party and work with a doctrinaire liberal President to pass some kind of health care reform. For this, she got thrown under the bus at the appropriate time. Reid wouldn’t even let her proposal go to the CBO for scoring, let alone come to the floor for a vote. If you liberals thought that her “trigger option” was so unacceptable to the liberal Dems on the committees, then Reid should have told her that MONTHS AGO–that she shouldn’t bother working with him and Obama and go back to the GOP and their filibuster.

    He deliberately dragged her along to try to ensnare her into some commitment that she would vote for cloture anyway. That flopped. He now admitted he’s lost her for the Senate votes.

    How can you POSSIBLY condemn the Republicans for not working with the Dems, if this is the treatment they could expect?

    Your version of “Republicans working with Dems” is to have Republicans standing there for months of photo-ops, only after which they’re told to go to hell.

    You own the government, you don’t need Republicans. You’ve made that very clear. So go ahead, run it yourselves. Only make sure you don’t stumble. Because you’ll own every stumble.

  • balconesfault

    Senator Snowe had the guts to buck her own party and work with a doctrinaire liberal President to pass some kind of health care reform.

    See – this is what is very sad about the current process. Why should Senator Snowe even had to “buck her own party” – unless the sole goal of her party is not to participate in and improve the healthcare bill process, but simply to obstruct legislation?

    I don’t actually believe that Reid was working with Snowe – she had an arrangement worked out with Baucus. And Baucus rewarded her for it – he mustered his coalition of conservative Dems on the finance committee – himself, Conrad, Lincoln – to vote down amendments by Schumer and Rockefeller for a private option and instead install Snowe’s trigger in the bill that finally passed out of committee.

    I’d look forward to your evidence that Reid had in fact worked out an agreement with Snowe – but I don’t think you’ll find any.

    Rather, once again, her agreement was with Baucus, who wanted at least one Republican to have voted for his bill coming out of Finance. I suppose that Baucus could feel “thrown under the bus” … but per most Democrats, the feeling is mutual given his rallying of votes in his committee to defeat the Schumer and Rockefeller amendments, either of which could have passed on straight party line votes.

  • sinz54

    balconesfault: Why should Senator Snowe even had to “buck her own party” – unless the sole goal of her party is not to participate in and improve the healthcare bill process, but simply to obstruct legislation?

    We conservatives will NEVER accept a public option. For us, that’s a matter of firm principle. Any bill that contains a public option is unacceptable, period.

    Since that’s what the liberals who dominate the House and the Senate HELP committee are insisting on, there is no way that the GOP can “participate in and improve the healthcare bill process.” For us conservatives, the inclusion of a public option is a deal-breaker and strikes at the heart of conservative market principles. There is nothing for us to “improve.”

    So the only Republicans that might, just might, be willing to work with the Dems are the few moderate Repubs like Snowe and Collins. And they tried to soften the public option with a trigger. The Dems said no, and that’s the end of that.

    Since you liberals are so confident that the public option will be popular with the American voters, you should be glad to own this entire bill. We don’t want to own it at all.