There was a time when Obamacare was draft legislation with the potential to reengineer a sixth of the national economy, there a sweeping policy vision for America. After the Massachusetts election of January 19, with Scott Brown (and truck) now in Washington, Democrats have been forced to reevaluate their position. This week, the White House has made clear that Obamacare is no longer about policy; it is a political prop.
Today, the President released his new proposal that seeks to soothe differences amongst Democrats, bridging the gap between the House and the Senate bills. Read the White House press releases and statements, and January 19 is spun as merely a bump in the legislative drive. How does the White House plan to get the legislation through Congress? By using reconciliation, thereby compensating for the one vote lost in the Senate.
But, of course, January 19 changed everything. It’s not just that the Democrats lost one vote in the Senate, and thus the filibuster-proof majority. They lost everything with regard to Obamacare: the momentum, their credibility, the ability to persuade moderate and vulnerable Democrats, and, yes, the filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
In the days leading up to the health summit — slated for Thursday in Blair House — the White House will talk up the idea of pushing through its ambitious proposal with budget reconciliation. The problem for the White House, though, is not the Senate. It’s the House. As I noted last week, rumors suggest that as many as 100 House Democrats would vote against Obamacare.
Let’s remember that last November the House bill passed by the barest of majorities: just five votes, one of which was cast by a Republican (who seems unlikely to vote for Obamacare a second time around).
Now, polls consistently show Americans disapprove of Obamacare, Democrats are in a polling freefall, and Republicans are poised to make major gains in November; the Democrats in the House don’t have the votes.
Why is it then that the White House is talking up reconciliation and a new (or not so new) proposal? The answer has nothing to do with the hope of a Rose Garden signing ceremony, but the hope of holding on to what they really have: Senate seats in blue states like Washington, Illinois, Nevada, and California. Attempting to shore up his liberal base, the President is making one last public effort to push through his liberal legislation.
White House officials insist that Obamacare is very much alive. Their actions suggest otherwise. Obamacare flatlined on January 19. This week, the White House is hosting a bipartisan memorial service.