The establishment bloggers all weighed in yesterday, before the results of the Massachusetts election, and en masse decided to tell the House what to do.
I think this is very simple. And we're about to see what the congressional Dems are made of. Obama too. [. . .] For the House liberals, it was clear that only very limited revisions were going to be gained in the House-Senate negotiations. It's one thing if someone wasn't going to vote for the final bill at all. But if they were, the differences between the senate bill and whatever the negotiation was going to produce simply were not going to be big enough -- not remotely -- to justify voting against it.
For the conservative Dems, if they already voted for the more liberal House bill, it won't help them a wink to refuse to vote for the senate bill now -- whether that means casting a no vote or just preventing it from coming up for a vote at all.
It's just all so simple, see? Except for the fact that the 218 votes has become even dicier with Wexler gone, Cao undoubtedly not willing to buck his leadership one more time and Stupak and Driehaus holding out for the Stupak amendment, and Democrats just lost Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. But put all that aside for now, because, really, it's all very simple.
My take: Dems are better off passing reform — and running on it, not from it. If skittish Dems interpret a Coakley loss as a sign they over-read their mandate, and fail to pass a health bill, they’ll be worse off than they would be if they run on reform — even if it’s unpopular at the outset.
This is fairly straightforward. Failure to pass reform will not stop the GOP from attacking Dems over it. Indeed, failure would enhance, rather than weaken, GOP attacks.
Straightforward? See the problem above, with that 218.
Scott Brown's victory would change the math in the Senate but not the fundamentals of the bill. It's true, of course, that the addition of a 41st Republican means that the GOP can thwart the will of the 59 Democrats in the majority and successfully filibuster legislation. But this particular bill has already passed the Senate. It can be signed into law without ever seeing Harry Reid's desk again....
There is a tendency, however, to get caught in the politics and process of health-care reform. But the most important fact is not that House Democrats can pass the Senate bill. It's that they should, if it comes to that.
It's a fine thing to say you shouldn't get caught in the politics of healthcare reform when it's not actually your electoral butt on the line. That's not how policy-making or politics actually works. Here's another thing that the folks on the sidelines seem to conveniently ignore, and which the problem of 218 strongly plays: this bill is getting less popular by the day.
As the political world waits on the returns from the special Senate election in Massachusetts, one of the big issues in the race -- the health care debate -- has increasingly become a liability for the Obama White House and the Democratic Party, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
In the survey, only 33 percent say President Obama's health-reform effort is a good idea, versus 46 percent who consider it a bad idea.
A loss in Massachusetts, where a Republican hasn't been elected to federal office in decades, coupled with that kind of polling on this bill, is going to raise a question in the minds of every incumbent. There's a lot of time for primary challenges to get organized. There's going to be a real political calculation for every member that isn't simple to overcome. So the "shove the bill through" and then figure out later how to fix it is not a particularly compelling message for House members who've already been burned in this process, more than once, and who are watching their base become more disillusioned by the minute.
So what do they do to make sure that all of the hard work (that would have been done by now had Max Baucus not frittered away months on a futile quest for bipartisanship) doesn't end up for naught? Well, what about going back to the parts of healthcare reform that were always popular--the public option and/or Medicare expansion? And how about re-energizing the base, including labor, to work for Dem re-elections in this midterm election?
Do what Weiner and Nadler say to do:
Two high-profile progressives--Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)--said the only way they could sign on to the Senate bill is if it was accompanied immediately, or even preceded by, a separate bill, making a number of major preemptive changes to what they regard as an inferior package.
"It would have to be so quick that they happen at the same time," Weiner said. "We're in full whistling past the graveyard mode in there.... They're talking as if, like, what our deal is, what our negotiations are with the White House. Yeah, I mean if the last line is 'pigs fly out ass' or something like that.... We've gotta recognize we have an entirely different scenario tomorrow."
"You should do the other stuff first and then pass the Senate bill," Nadler told me. "I don't see how I could vote for the Senate bill," otherwise.
Smart negotiating on the part of those progressives, who know what they're going to need to do to get their base behind them in November. It's smart politics and smart policy, since what the House has been negotiating for in their bill makes for more effective reform.
So rather than indulging in more virtual arm-twisting of the members who have been working the hardest in the interest of the American people, maybe we should be spending a bit of time taking seriously the concerns of these House Dems who actually have to run on this bill.