Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stick a Fork in It! The Democratic Effort to Pass a Health Bill is Dead

Tuesday’s Republican victory in Massachusetts means the current Democratic health care bills will not be on the President’s desk in 2010.

Forget the crazy talk of ramming something through—including just having the House pass the pending Senate bill.

I’ve talked to lots of people in the past few months that didn’t like the Democratic effort but conceded that the Dems won the 2008 election on a platform to do health care their way. They would say, “elections matter” and could, albeit begrudgingly, understand Democratic attempts to pass their brand of health care.

But losing Ted Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts with the singular issue being health care?

The game has changed. Democrats just can’t any longer spin the polls that for months have been so negative on the Democratic health care efforts.

The conclusion is now crystal clear—the people don’t want this. For goodness sakes—they rejected it in Massachusetts! On the political shocker scale this rivals “Dewey Defeats Truman” and the '94 elections.

When Bill Clinton lost the '94 elections, he went before the press the next day and took responsibility for what happened and then spent the next two years successfully rebuilding his presidency.

Obama and the Democratic leadership really only have that course in front of them now.

Defying the American people at this point with these foolish hypotheticals about how they could still thwart the obvious will of the people and pass their bill would only result in their digging themselves into an exponentially deeper political hole.

I am not sure Reid, Pelosi, and Emanuel understand this—they have proven to be incredibly politically tone deaf all winter.

But I will tell you something you can take to the bank—a lot of their House and Senate moderate Democrats do understand what this means and you can expect them to begin moving off these bills in the next 24 to 72 hours. A trickle will lead to a stampede and that will be it.

There will be no interest in staying aboard the kamikaze flight Reid and Pelosi are now piloting straight into the 2010 elections.

In the end, this was 1994 all over again. The Democrats thought they could unilaterally do health care their way and blew it just the way they did 15 years ago--out of pure political arrogance.

Let me repeat something I must have said on this blog a hundred times—health care is too big an issue to be done in any way other than a bipartisan fashion. One side simply can’t move something this big, complex, and controversial without lots of political cover from the other side. This bunch, to their peril, never understood the lesson that both Social Security and Medicare were passed by comfortable bipartisan margins.

There is no doubt in my mind that there were at least 10 Republican Senators that were ready to deal in good faith on this issue—the “gang of six” plus the Republicans who had signed on to the Wyden-Bennett bill, for example.

But when Max Baucus was given the opportunity to try for a bipartisan solution, his hands were tied—bipartisanship was defined as Republicans having to sign-on to the Democratic bills their leadership and the left wing of the party were overly confident they could pass on their own.

Health care is an easy issue to demagogue. The opposition will always do it. Republicans, including these ten Senators, did a lot of it the past few weeks. That is why the opposition needed to be neutralized in the first place with real bipartisan support.

As readers of this blog know, I have been pessimistic about this effort for more than a year. But, today I also believe there is a way to pass a substantial bipartisan health care bill that would cover at least 30 million people, reform the insurance markets very much like the Democratic bills would have, and begin a process of real systemic change. I also believe that can happen in the next couple of years. It could all be in place by the same 2014 date the Democrats had in their bill.

But for now, the overly confident and unwilling to compromise Democrats blew it again.

With their solid majorities and popular new President, whom else do they have to blame?

The only way for them to make this election-year mess worse would be to ram their bill through. There are lots of Republicans in this town secretly hoping they will at least try!
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