With Repeal Vote Over, the Real Work Begins

January 19th, 2011 at 6:08 pm David Frum | 30 Comments |

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Okay, so we got that out of our system. Fine. Now, some serious work.

As I see it, Republicans have 2 most urgent concerns with the healthcare bill:

  • the tax mechanism, which weighs on work, saving and investment
  • the added Medicaid burden on states, which the federal government promises to cushion, but with uncertain reliability.

Fixes to those problems must move through the House, through the Senate – with the same 60 vote requirement that we have defended since 2009 as indispensable to the American constitutional system – and then to the president. Those fixes will require deal-making, cooperation, and yes compromise. If we are unprepared to engage in those activities, we are resigning ourselves to the full operation of the existing law over the next 2 years.

At every step of this process, Republican tactics have defeated Republican strategy.

The inopportune Pat Toomey primary challenge to Arlen Specter drove Specter to the Democrats at the worst possible moment, delivering them the 60th vote in the Senate needed to pass the law. The refusal to do business in the Senate Finance Committee discarded hopes of a Senate draft aligned with Republican views.

The results are as we saw.

Now is belatedly time to bring tactics into alignment with strategy. For some, the real strategic goal is simply to elect members and replace President Obama. Healthcare is just a means to a larger end. Ironically and audaciously, these people advertise themselves as the most “principled” conservatives. They are anything but.

If the strategy is to address the most pressing threats in the existing bill, Republican tactics have to adapt. If today’s vote cleared the air so that real work can begin, then fine. If however today’s vote represented the overture to 24 months of symbolic politics and pre-election positioning – then it has mightily disserved the cause it supposedly upheld.

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30 Comments so far ↓

  • Nanotek

    Where is the budget House Republicans? You’re up.

  • TerryF98

    Where are the JOBS bills?

  • Saladdin

    If you refuse to negotiate at the outset, fixing problems isn’t what you really want to do now is it?

  • armstp

    Who really cares about this vote? It is not going to mean a thing either way.

  • Diomedes

    Who really cares about this vote? It is not going to mean a thing either way.

    It’s just a token gesture by the GOP. It allows them to save face in the eyes of their constituents. But they know it would never get passed the senate or the president’s veto pen.

  • Rob_654

    “Real Work Begins”?

    The only real work is now the GOP will go out and talk non-stop about how they voted to repeal health care legislation and about how they will try to defund everything – there is no more “work” that they are going to do to do anything about the health care debacle in this country.

    The GOP has many years when they were control of the White House, Senate and House and they did nothing and they will do nothing.

    The Republicans have been talking about cutting spending and reducing the size of the Federal Government as far back as I can remember (which would be Reagan’s first Presidential win) and we are all still waiting for them to follow through with those promises that they keep making every time they are out of power.

  • busboy33

    “If however today’s vote represented the overture to 24 months of symbolic politics and pre-election positioning – then it has mightily disserved the cause it supposedly upheld.”

    Depends on what your cause is. Are you trying to govern? Then yes, it won’t work. Are you trying to get more camera time? Then it’ll work just fine.

  • Mark Rosenthal

    Well, the bill went through. It will now die in the Senate.

    End of story.

    And an utter waste of taxpayer money to fund this circus.

    the law will not be repealed, nor should it be repealed.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    In honor of Governor Sarah Palin, I have dubbed this healthcare reform measure the Bill to Nowhere.

    May it rest in peace.

  • valkayec

    Historically (as in throughout history, not just the last couple of years), the federal government needs about 26% of GDP to fund itself. Because of the recession and tax reductions, government revenues amount to 15% of GDP.

    How about the GOP focusing on economic GROWTH first and foremost?

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Now, some serious work.

    What? Have you seen the Republican Party?

  • lessadoabouteverything

    What, exactly, are the Republican proposals to fix whatever they think is wrong? I like the Wyden bill, which allows states to opt out provided they meet Federal benchmarks (by whatever means, public or private) but Wyden is a Democrat. Kind of scary that the only people who are talking about reform are Democrats, Republicans just want to go back to the status quo ante, and we all know how popular that was…oh wait. Everybody hated it.

    Maybe the Republicans can just talk about the Medicare Doc fix and how Obama did not include long term funding for that in his bill (of course, the Republicans did not exactly address it with the Shambill: The Bill to end “the job destroying, anti-God, universe nullifying Obamacare”

  • pnumi2

    “If however today’s vote represented the overture to 24 months of symbolic politics and pre-election positioning – then it has mightily disserved the cause it supposedly upheld.”

    The wording of this sentence indicates that Frum believes that the healthcare reform battle cry of Republican pols had at least a 2% chance of being sincere.

    WRONG

    Healthcare Reform is and will continue to be the Republican version of “pay no attention to the man behind the silver curtain” i.e., the wonderful Wizard of Debt.

  • chicago_guy

    If the Republicans really don’t want a national approach, they’re free to go back to their statehouses and put together their own health care plans that meet or exceed the federal expectations. Vermont’s trying to do just that – Texas and Oklahoma could do the same.

    But that would require them to actually try and cover everyone in their state, which is the first step to acknowledging that health care coverage is something akin to public education and police and fire protection. Y’know – “socialism.”

  • valkayec

    chicago_guy – Don’t forget Oregon. It’s putting together a plan, that’s getting some initial support from HHS, based on the new Governor’s ideas.

  • kevin47

    “The GOP has many years when they were control of the White House, Senate and House and they did nothing and they will do nothing.”

    Not true. For starters, they past Medicare Part D, which was far from nothing. You might not like what it did, but it is not accurate to say it didn’t do anything.

    “If the Republicans really don’t want a national approach, they’re free to go back to their statehouses and put together their own health care plans that meet or exceed the federal expectations.”

    In other words, they are not at all free. That seems like it would be an effective talking point, though.

  • COProgressive

    I can’t wait for 2012!

    Restore Pre-existing conditions for insurance companies!
    Vote Republican!

    Let the insurance company kick sick people out in the street!
    Vote Republican!

    Tell your kid to get his own damn health insurance!
    Vote Republican!

    Restore the Status Quo, let’s go back to doing NOthing!
    Vote Republican!

    “What really pains me about this is the Republicans care about politics and the Democrats care about government.” David Frum

  • mickster99

    Frum advocates 60 votes needed to pass any legislation out of the U.S. Senate? Very very bad for this country. But if you think government is always the problem to paraphrase Reagan then I suppose it’s ok for the Fox and Frum fringers to effectively gridlock the Congress for the next 2 years. And what’s his explanation?

  • Candy83

    This Republican House is a gift for President Obama.

  • westony

    @Candy83. You are exactly right.

  • andydp

    OK GOP: you’ve fulfilled the symbolic promise.

    Now lets see you fulfill the jobs and cost cutting (not just office staff) promises.

    Remember Marco Rubio’s words: “This election should not be construed as an approval of the GOP”.

    Personally, I’m waiting for the Tea Party to start commenting on your efforts.

  • bbern

    Interesting that my congressman, Elton Gallegly, is touting his vote for repeal, yet has said absolutely nothing about options for dealing with problems in the individual insurance market (denial of coverage, rescissions, ridiculous hurdles related to preexisting conditions, dramatically increased rates, etc.). Calls to his office produce sympathetic listening but no actual ideas or proposals. What comes after the posturing? Not much apparently.

  • Non-Contributor

    This is what we get:

    Jack Kingston who is chairman of the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that will make funding decisions for the FDA wants to significantly reduce funding for the new food safety laws just passed, you know because the FDA is big government.

    From the Washington Post:

    “We still have a food supply that’s 99.99 percent safe,” Kingston said in an interview. “No one wants anybody to get sick, and we should always strive to make sure food is safe. But the case for a $1.4 billion expenditure isn’t there.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/24/AR2010122402748.html

    So Kingston wants to reduce or eliminate funding because why? Because he doesn’t understand statistics! They didn’t estimate that a person has a 99.99% chance of getting sick from eating. They estimated that a person has a 99.99% chance of getting sick from their next meal. Which if you know anything about statistics isn’t the same thing.

    It is correctly estimated that 48 million people will become sick and some will die this year from food borne illnesses but that doesn’t matter because Kingston skipped stat 101.

    Just think how this logic (lack of) gets applied to the financial decisions like healthcare and the debt.

  • Gramps

    Ten changes that have been or were, implemented within six months of the HCR bill signed by President Obama, on March 23, 2010…

    1. Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 26th birthday
    2. Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
    3. No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
    4. Free preventative care for all
    5. Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insured.
    6. Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
    7. The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
    8. Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
    9. Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.
    10. AND no more rescissions. Effective immediately, you can’t lose your insurance because you get sick.

    Now my question is…despite all the Republican bluster and self congratulations on voting for the repeal of HCR; which if any, of the above changes might they incorporate in ”their repair” of the health insurance crisis?

    My guess is …their whole ”repair bombast” is just that and will fizzle out. The Republicans are as usual… “All Hat and no Cattle”. They truly are the quintessential party of no!

    “Okay, so we got that out of our system. Fine. Now, some serious work.

    I’m sorry, there is much more serious work to be done here; if the Republicans had the cajones and the political will to do it.

  • KBKY

    @mickster99
    The problem is not the 60 votes needed for cloture, that is an important part of our legislative process. The beauty of the Senate is that the minority party actually has power to shape debate and legislation, as opposed to in the House where they are run over. People who scoff at the 60 votes when their party is in power are very glad that it is there when the other party is in charge. The problem is our current treatment of the filibuster, which is absolutely absurd and doesn’t actually require any inconvenience to the party “threatening” it.

    @Gramps
    I’m all for holding the new class of Republicans accountable, but they haven’t even been in office three weeks yet (and one of those weeks the House was put on hold due to the Tuscon shooting). Let’s actually give them a chance before accusing them of having no political will.

    @Non-Contributor
    I see your point, but the fact is that we have to make cuts somewhere and no cuts are going to be popular/ideal. Also, to be fair, Rep. Kingston didn’t advocate for a full cut, but rather a scaling back and it won’t affect inspections of meat, poultry, and egg products, which are handled by the USDA. I’m not saying that I like this cut, but we are going to have to make some very difficult trade-offs in the next few years and this one doesn’t strike me as particularly egregious.

  • Carney

    Don’t blame Toomey for Obamacare. Blame Santorum.

    Specter deserved to be primaried, because he was well left of what he needed to be to be re-elected. The standard is, are you at, or near, the maximum level of conservatism that your constituency can tolerate while remaining a strong candidate? Conversely, the only permissible level of squishing is the minimum necessary to remain a strong candidate. Specter was nowhere close to that; he was aggressively left on many issues, in many issue areas.

    The proof that Specter was too far left is Santorum, who was elected and re-elected statewide.

    So why blame Santorum for Obamacare? Because Santorum campaigned heavily in the 2004 primary — for SPECTER. The base was fed up with Specter and ready to ditch him. Santorum had unique and indispensable credibility with PA GOP primary voters and put that on the line to heavily sell Specter as a reliable conservative.

    Had Santorum not done this, not gone out of his way (rather than offer a tepid, pro forma endorsement and a long list of schedule conflicts preventing him from helping Specter), Toomey would have won. As it was, Toomey’s surge was blunted in the final weekend, causing him to come just short in a 48-52 heartbreaker.

    And one need not have the benefit of hindsight of his 2010 win to know that Toomey was a strong statewide candidate. In 2004 he had already been a twice re-elected Congressman from a Democratic-leaning swing district. So it’s not at all as if Santorum directly or indirectly helping Toomey in 2004 would have been pushing a kamikaze, O’Donnell style loser. Instead he’d have been swapping a left Republican who could win statewide for a reliable Republican who could (and did) win statewide. And a Senator Toomey in office in 2009 and 2010 would never have voted for Obamacare.

    So Frum is wrong. Sometimes you can and should primary a squish Republican, and beat him.

  • Scofflaw

    There is an incredible amount of ambivilance in today’s citizenry that has yet to be tapped into, or even recognized by most current political professionals. The candidate, or party, who begins to speak and lead based upon ideas, goals, and principles beyond the next election cycle will reap the benifit of overwhelming independant voter support. Whether you agree with Mr. Frum’s analysis or not, the fact is that he offers two distinctly concrete, constructive alternatives within the context of the nation’s health care crisis beyond simply repeating the usual dismissive talking point bullet “Obamacare” lable whenever the opportunity presents itself.

    I am a dyed in the wool liberal…seriously, I could be stuffed and put on exhibit in the Smithsonian as the classic example of the breed. My friends would be astounded that I would even view a site featuring President Bush’s former speech writer, let alone actually join in dialogue. But these are strange times, and Mr. Frum is someone whom I have listened to and read over the past six months that has caused me consider the effect of the blinders of ideology. The problems we face are much too significant and the course of events take place in a current too swift for our nation to have the luxury of finding comfort in the simplistic labling and bombastic volume that currently passes for political discourse in our country.

    I truely believe that Mr. Frum’s analysis is correct, further, I believe that the Republicans have an incredible opportunity to gain significant credibility among voters by simply moving beyond “repeal” to “improve”. Take Barrack Obama out of the equasion, the current bill is made up of largly Republican ideas from the past ten or fifteen years of considering the problems of our national health care system. There is no government take over, (believe me…I wish there were) this plan is still private provider based; Republican steps to improve delivery and actually cut costs would allow for the credit to be shared by both parties, and more importantly our citizens would recieve the benifit of improvements in access and economies.

    President Obama has recieved a huge benifit from the public perception that he compromised during the lame duck session in order to better serve the public as a whole. Whether you personally agree with that assessment or not, virtually every pole that I have seen bears out this assertion. Compromise should not be viewed as surrender, we need both parties to commit to governing during this crucial time. As a liberal reader of Mr. Frum, I am beggining to see the value of considering the merits of an idea without considering its source.

  • Gramps

    @ KBKY // Jan 20, 2011 at 11:30 am

    The Republicans spent 48 hours ripping the HCR bill before they voted in full chorus and cry, for its’ repeal. Those days could have been better spent in making amended repair, or specific repeal of certain elements of the bill.

    They had neither the courage nor stomach to take such a pragmatic approach, so they opted for the politically expedient; by voting to repeal the entire bill to mollify the extreme fringes of their rightwing.

  • Gramps

    blockquote>@Scofflaw // Jan 20, 2011 at 1:35 pm “…the current bill is made up of largly Republican ideas from the past ten or fifteen years of considering the problems of our national health care system.
    There is no government take over, (believe me…I wish there were) this plan is still private provider based; Republican steps to improve delivery and actually cut costs would allow for the credit to be shared by both parties, and more importantly our citizens would recieve the benifit of improvements in access and economies…”

    Like Scofflaw said…but keep in mind the Congressional GOP has… “No balls, no brass and will receive no glory…!”
    When one has no commitment and no constructive ideas for improvement, it’s best to… “Just say NO…!

  • jerry ebert

    Carney, you might as well blame the Kenyans for Obamacare. After all, if they hadn’t allowed Obama’s daddy to study in America, he never would have met Obama’s mom.

    I think Frum’s right. And when he says “The Republicans have to adapt,” he is hitting on their biggest weakness. Their courtship of the Tea Party now leaves them trapped in a marriage of convenience, with no fooling around allowed.