From Convention time to the 2008 elections, and for months after, Republicans were in denial, the first of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross's stages of mourning. From August until just recently, we have seen nothing but anger (stage 2) from them. A year after the elections, the Republicans started bargaining (stage 3), with their Health Care bill.
At the same time, this first offer is laughable, and the execution more so.
- House Minority Leader John Boehner announced that they have eight or nine ideas, but didn't say what they are.
- They announced: A Plan! but didn't release it.
- The plan leaked, but No, that's not the Plan!
- The non-Plan was skewered as having only three ideas, one taken from the Democrats.
- Back to waiting for the real Plan.
- [Talking heads in a] Lather, rinse, repeat
The existence of a useless non-Plan is a break from the Bill Kristol strategy to kill health care (and lots of Americans) at any cost.
Not that we should rejoice. The Stupak Amendment shows the real bargaining strategy. Get in a poison pill, so that Progressives will turn against the whole project.
What comes next? We might see a series of ever more desperate and still meaningless counter-plans, receiving solemn consideration in the Mainstream Media, and ever louder laughter from Comedy Central, MSNBC, and the blogosphere. We know for sure that the Republicans will try to trick the Democrats into allowing some "compromise" into the Senate bill, with the objective of getting Progressives to turn against the result.
We are already hearing cries of "Treason!" over allowing the Stupak Amendment to the House bill to forbid coverage of abortions in any plan offered in this program, even if 100% paid for by the insured. This means that women who want abortion coverage have to get it as a separate policy or a rider on their main plan. Coverage for medically necessary abortions, and in cases of rape, is still permitted, in accordance with Supreme Court rulings and the Hyde Amendment on abortion funding.
Some women are declaring (see comments) that they won't vote for any Democrat if this makes it into the final bill. Which most say it won't. Republicans get to sow discord between Progressive women and the Democratic party, and even more discord between women more generally and the Republican party. Is that a good bargain? I think it's seriously bad, and I also think that many of them think it's rather good. (Don't worry. We aren't going to get into what they think I think they think.)
The argument in the Senate is currently over the Opt-Out Public Option that emerged late in the discussions in the Senate Finance Committee. Senators Schumer and Rockefeller, while offering amendments for much stronger Public Option options, have agreed that Opt-Out is an acceptable compromise with the States' Rights crowd, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has put Opt-Out into the bill that he plans to bring to the floor of the Senate. (Many of us are in fact looking forward to the prospect of posturing Republican Governors threatening to opt out of Health Care while their legislatures explain to them that they can't.) The Republican hope for a poison pill is currently to replace Opt-Out with Opt-In, which Progressives hate. Watch out for other pernicious ideas to be hastily thrown into the mix, modeled on the Stupak Amendment.
This Senate Health Care bill is not finished, and will not be finished until negotiations with Blue Dog holdouts and Joe Lieberman are completed. Whatever deals get made with them will make up the finishing touches on the bill when it comes to the floor. The deals are to include promises to vote for cloture to allow debate on the bill, and again to allow the final vote.
Harry Reid has expressed confidence that we will get the 60 votes for cloture in this way. You will hear many others chime in on this, whether they know anything about it or not. I don't know much about it, but I am confident that Reid intends to get a deal and a bill, no matter how much negotiating is necessary. Senator McCain has said that he expects a bill to pass, although he doesn't know what that bill will be.
All of the other Republicans say that there is no chance, but they would, wouldn't they? Perhaps they hope that they can make a self-fulfilling prophecy, or that they can derail or seriously weaken the plan by picking off Democratic support from the Left or the Right edges of the party, by getting Blue Dogs to oppose cloture, or by getting them to support one or another poison pill.
So it's certainly nail-biting time on all sids, but not hand-wringing time for us. It is rather fashionable to disparage Majority Leader Reid, but Senate Democrats elected him for just this kind of maneuvering. They didn't put him in to make fiery speeches or public threats, but to deal, because he's good at it. The rest of us need to keep right on executing the strategy, just as we did during the campaign, even when the Palin bounce put McCain temporarily up in the polls.
The Republicans are in a deep hole, and still digging ever more strenuously. So we just need to keep the pressure on the Blue Dogs with those calls and letters, and donate to those groups creating the pressure ads to bring them to heel.
That's the bargaining phase, where the Republicans are fighting hard, but generally making their loss from last year worse. According to Kübler-Ross, after bargaining comes depression, and finally acceptance. So far, these stages have lasted several months each. If bargaining extends into the spring (even if Health Care passes this year), then depression would be on the schedule for the campaign season. Wouldn't that be fun?
Do you think they might get to acceptance after they get clobbered again in the mid-terms?
Update: Here's one now! Uber-conservative blogger at RedState telling readers that Health Care will win.