Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Political Malpractice Of The Health Bill

By TalkLeft's Big Tent Democrat TalkLeft

Jon Walker fleshes out an argument I made for the entire year - going the 60 vote route in the Senate for "comprehensive" health care reform instead of following the Schumer two bills plan was political malpractice by the Democrats:

By insisting that the bill be passed using regular order, where it would need all 60 votes in the Democratic caucus to break a filibuster, Obama and Harry Reid made many conservative Democrats in the Senate take votes that were not in their political self-interest. The issue had become so partisan, attempts by conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln to make the bill more “centrist-y” and lard it up with local pork simply backfired. The conservative constituents are still angry because, in the end, they still voted for something labeled “health care reform,” and the Democratic base in state is now pissed because they ended up crippling the bill for seemingly no reason (let’s not forget Lincoln’s Senate website still claimed she supported a public option even as she was saying on the Senate floor that she would filibuster any bill that had one). Passing the bill using reconciliation with only 50 votes would have allowed several conservative Democrats–like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, and Mary Landrieu–to avoid taking a tough political vote.

Precisely. Nelson, Lincoln and others could have voted No for the reconciliation bill, which would have included funding, a public option, Medicaid expansion, etc and then voted for the smaller bore "regulatory reform" stuff via regular order. This was an obvious approach since the summer. The mistake was allowing Baucus to hijack the process. And I think there is strong evidence that that decision was made in the White House. Today, you have a bill that is not very popular with Democrats and is loathed by Republicans and Independents. Whatever the merits of the policy, there is not doubt that the health bill has become a political debacle for Democrats.

Speaking for me only