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After Big Defeat, Will Next Democratic Casualty be ObamaCare?

Morgen on November 3, 2009 at 8:08 pm

As I write this at 7:00 p.m. (PST), Republicans have already clinched an expected victory in the governor’s race in Virginia, and are on the verge of taking Obama-Corzineback the governor’s mansion in New Jersey as well. No matter how Democrats spin this, and no matter how much the White House feigns indifference, this is shaping up to be a huge, momentum shifting night for conservative Republicans. And let there be no doubt that the resurgence of conservatism is chiefly responsible. Particularly a shift on the part of independent voters towards more fiscally responsible, sane leadership.

The other major news of the day was an acknowledgment on the part of Democratic leadership in the House and Senate that healthcare reform is unlikely to be completed before the end of the year. With the President brashly promising for months that he would sign a bill before the end of the year, this is a major tactical and PR defeat for the Administration and other liberal proponents of health reform. Most likely a decision was made to leak this news today in combination with the election results in order to get all the bad news out of the way at once. It’s a bad day for the Administration, and Democrats in general, and the reverberations have only begun.

It’s looking more and more like the apparent momentum behind ObamaCare the past few weeks was only a mirage. For all the talk about the goal posts shifting with Senator Reid’s decision to include the public option in the Senate bill, the reality is that Democratic unity on health reform was approaching a near meltdown, and he really had no choice. But in all likelihood Reid has only delayed the inevitable civil war amongst Democrats when the harsh reality sets in that there will not be enough moderate votes for a public option. Except perhaps the deferred “trigger” public option proposed by Republican Olympia Snowe, which would likely lose the support of an even greater number of liberal Senators.

The above scenario had already begun to play out in the Senate, and tonight’s election results will only exacerbate this situation for Senator Reid and the White House. And the public option may be the least of their concerns, although it’s the issue most likely to lead to a party meltdown. Only 42% of voters are in favor of healthcare reform in its entirety, and support among independent voters has seen the largest drop in the preceding few months. The Administration can spin this legislation as “deficit neutral” all they want, but fiscal conservatives of all stripes rightly see it as a massive expansion of taxes and government spending.

While it would be ridiculous to write the epitaph for ObamaCare at this stage, pushing out the legislation into 2010 (an election year) holds out the very real possibility that Democrats will have to scale back their ambitions in order to get a bill passed. And perhaps this explains the real strategy behind the announcement today regarding the delay. As problematic as some of the provisions of the bill will be for moderate Democrats, the party as a whole cannot afford to fail in passing a bill. Not if they’d like to avoid repeating 1994 all over again. The Administration’s support for the public option has been tepid now for months. Perhaps this is their way of sending a message to the hardcore liberal base that a continued insistence on a public option is going to imperil the entire effort.

But as the saying goes, be careful what you ask for. There are a substantial numbers of liberals in the House who are long-time single payer supporters, and who only reluctantly got behind the public option. With the President’s own popularity waning, they could very well decide to walk when faced with the decision to vote for a bill which mandates that people purchase policies from private insurers. While it seems almost unimaginable that they would do so, it seems equally unimaginable that they would so blatantly sell out their own constituents on single payer.

The next 2-3 months are shaping up to be pretty interesting!

Update: Christie wins BIG over Corzine!

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Category: Health & Education, Politics |

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