Seeing President Obama traveling the land this week, delivering yet more speeches on the critical importance of passing THIS healthcare reform legislation NOW, makes DrRich shake his head in wonderment.
For one thing, the President’s rhetoric on healthcare reform is already stale. As he himself has said, the arguing has gone on long enough; minds are made up. And the President seems to have nothing new to say.
We proles, in fact, know that the status quo is unacceptable, and that the health insurance companies are evil and are assiduously pricing people out of the market just as fast as they can; and we have concluded that something needs to be done. The fact that the majority of us have not made the connection between “something needs to be done” and “this is the only solution that we may consider” is not, as the President has claimed, due to the fact that he hasn’t explained it to us often enough. We just don’t like the solution he and his party have settled upon.
So the President’s tired speech (”We have a big problem, therefore this is the only possible solution.”) begs the question. And the fact that he continues to deliver that speech, over and over (as if we simply haven’t heard it often enough to be convinced by it), threatens to permanently ruin the rhetorical aura that propelled him into power in the first place.
But even more inexplicably, why is the President on the road, wasting his time trying to convince us gun-toting Bible-thumpers, when the only people he needs to convince are a handful of heavily-educated and readily-identifiable Congresspersons, who are members of the very Democratic Party of which he is the head, and whose names, addresses, phone numbers, expense accounts, ambitions, foibles, and proclivities are readily available to him, likely in a neatly-arranged stack of manila folders?
Turning two or three of those Democratic “no’s” to “yeses” (or alternately, as in the case of Rep. Massa, to “nulls”) is all it would take. Why is this so hard? Why is the highly-focused effort to turn a few Congresspersons such a big problem that the President finds it more useful to spend his precious time traveling across the land, spreading his stale message (shotgun-fashion) to an electorate which is growing ever more immune to his charms every day?
DrRich thinks he knows the answer. The President needs to be out of town – for his own personal viability and to distract the public – during the arm-twisting process. For, the only remaining problem the President has in passing healthcare reform at this late date has nothing whatever to do with the Republicans, or the evil insurance companies, or the increasingly angry public. His problem – his only problem – is that his fellow Democrats do not trust each other. And when you cannot work with trust you must work with fear and intimidation.
To see what has brought the President and his party to this sorry state, let us review what has happened so far, at least as DrRich understands it. The Democrat-controlled House has passed one healthcare reform bill, and the Democrat-controlled Senate has passed another. There are a few big differences between these two bills, and so, around the Holidays, the Democrat leaders of the House and the Democrat leaders of the Senate embarked on famously-secret, closed-door sessions to strike a compromise between the two versions, that both houses of Congress could agree to by a simple majority. We don’t know the details of what happened in that room, except that they failed miserably, and when they gave up the effort the House Democrats and the Senate Democrats were no longer wonderful friends.
Next, the election of Scott Brown to the Kennedy Endowed Senatorial Chair precluded a new bill from being feasible in the Senate.
Next, the President unleashed the dogs of reconciliation, which is where we are today.
DrRich has an opinion on reconciliation, which is: The Founders invented the Senate specifically to prevent the federal government from getting much done, since the essence of good government is not to do too much. And so, it was supposed to be hard to get legislation through the Senate; important legislation was supposed to require prolonged debate, negotiation and compromise. Reconciliation defeats that intent. Admittedly, how one regards reconciliation largely depends on whether one is in the majority or the minority, and one’s own passions on the question can change remarkably in a very short period of time. (Just listen to the widely-played videos from just a couple of years ago of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi decrying reconciliation as a grave threat to the Republic, and the videos of current Republican leaders at the same time defending the idea.)
But the spectre of reconciliation, like the speeches the President is currently running around making, is only a distraction.
The first step of reconciliation will be to have the House pass the Senate bill completely intact (replete with all the goodies for Louisiana and Nebraska, and with federal funding for abortion, and with lots of other stuff the House Democrats find so objectionable that no agreement could be reached with the Senate in Joint Conference). Then, once the House passes the Senate bill, the President will sign the bill into law.
Then, the story goes, the Senate will embark on the very painful and difficult and prolonged and controversial process of reconciliation, wherein sundry enumerated “fixes” will be made to the now-law-of-the-land, as promised to the House Democrats.
Really? Once the Senate healthcare reform bill becomes the official law of the land, thus completely salvaging the President’s nearly-broken agenda, he and the Senate will really turn around and immediately re-open the contentious process, and allow the controversy to continue right up to election day?
Really? The President and the Senate will do this to fulfill a promise to recalcitrant Congressional Blue Dog Democrats, a group that Rahm Emanuel is said to have referred to as f****** retards, a group that has made the President’s (and Pelosi’s) life completely miserable, a group that has come very close to ruining Mr. Obama’s Presidency, a group that – whether reconciliation actually goes forward or not – is politically doomed if they vote for this bill, and when they do lose will not be missed by their leadership?
Really? Will the President and the Senate really do this when a much less unpleasant alternative will immediately present itself the moment the House passes the Senate bill? Namely, the President can announce (perhaps after an initial foray into reconciliation, just to demonstrate how painful and divisive the process will be) that, having now made an honest effort to fulfill his promise to the House Democrats, he is calling an audible as President of all the people. After all, fulfilling his promise to the country (i.e., to bring the nation together in a fundamentally new way) must take precedence over mere political deals. So, with apologies to the House Democrats who will now lose face as well as re-election, healthcare reform has been successfully completed, and it is time to move on to more pressing issues.
DrRich thinks that the swing voters among the House Democrats have done the math, and have concluded that there is no way the President and the Senate will attempt any kind of real reconciliation process once they have passed on the Senate bill and it is signed into law.
DrRich thinks that the President, Rahm Emanuel, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have likewise concluded that the swing voters among the House Democrats have figured this out.
DrRich thinks that among the contending Democrats, trust is no longer on the table.
And so, the process among the sundry maneuvering Democrats in Washington has moved on, beyond gentlemens’ agreements, and secret back-door deals, and other forms of happy settlements founded in mutual trust.
They have moved on to fear and intimidation to get those last few votes. And if DrRich were one of those recalcitrant House Democrats, he would be looking very carefully at what has happened to Rep. Massa – who is at least a boor, but possibly no more than that – and doing a serious recalculation. For it is one thing to lose one’s seat in the House, and it is quite another to have one’s reputation and one’s familial happiness systematically and permanently ruined.
And, upon reflection, if DrRich were President, he would also want to take himself far, far away from the ugliness during this most delicate interval.
*This blog post was originally published at The Covert Rationing Blog*