Commentary Magazine


Topic: public insurance option

All They’re Missing Are the Votes

As this report neatly sums up: “Democratic leaders scrambled Sunday to pull together enough support in the House for a make-or-break decision on health-care reform later this week, expressing optimism that a package will soon be signed into law by President Obama despite a lack of firm votes for passage.” Republicans are vowing to do all they can, but the problem is the Democrats, who are being asked to vote against their own principles and self-interest. (“Democratic leaders are struggling to assemble support amid opposition to the Senate legislation from conservative Democrats, who object to abortion-related language in the bill, and from liberals, who are disappointed about the lack of a public insurance option and other measures.”)

The White House is filled with bluster, ready to make health care the centerpiece of the 2010 race. That, I imagine, sends shivers up the spines of at-risk Democrats, who are going to have to not only run against Republicans but also defend themselves against votes for the “Cornhusker Kickback” and its ilk, as well as for the Medicare cuts, tax hikes, and small-business mandates and fines. And let’s be clear: the bill does virtually nothing positive for those who have insurance through their employers or through Medicare. Those would be the people most likely to turn out to vote.

The only way for Democrats to end a debate that’s dragging their president and them under is to vote no. If not, this week will be only the beginning, not the end, of an argument many of them don’t want to have, one that will spell the end of their political careers. That’s why getting those votes is proving to be so difficult.

As this report neatly sums up: “Democratic leaders scrambled Sunday to pull together enough support in the House for a make-or-break decision on health-care reform later this week, expressing optimism that a package will soon be signed into law by President Obama despite a lack of firm votes for passage.” Republicans are vowing to do all they can, but the problem is the Democrats, who are being asked to vote against their own principles and self-interest. (“Democratic leaders are struggling to assemble support amid opposition to the Senate legislation from conservative Democrats, who object to abortion-related language in the bill, and from liberals, who are disappointed about the lack of a public insurance option and other measures.”)

The White House is filled with bluster, ready to make health care the centerpiece of the 2010 race. That, I imagine, sends shivers up the spines of at-risk Democrats, who are going to have to not only run against Republicans but also defend themselves against votes for the “Cornhusker Kickback” and its ilk, as well as for the Medicare cuts, tax hikes, and small-business mandates and fines. And let’s be clear: the bill does virtually nothing positive for those who have insurance through their employers or through Medicare. Those would be the people most likely to turn out to vote.

The only way for Democrats to end a debate that’s dragging their president and them under is to vote no. If not, this week will be only the beginning, not the end, of an argument many of them don’t want to have, one that will spell the end of their political careers. That’s why getting those votes is proving to be so difficult.

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But Why?

Eugene Robinson is typical of the liberal pundits who are grudgingly acknowledging that Obama and his Democratic congressional allies are in deep trouble. However, he is less candid about the reasons.

Well there’s an “enthusiasm gap,” he says. He sneers: “Vocal opponents of the president and the Democratic congressional leadership are eager, motivated and so excited that they can’t wait to grab their ‘tea party’ signs and march around the neighborhood. Vocal supporters of the president are … well, at the moment they aren’t even particularly vocal.” But why? We’re told there are “reasons beyond the president’s control.” Ah, the Republicans (in the minority in both houses and discredited nationwide after 2008) opposed him. Really? The enthusiasm gap sprung up because the minority party opposed what he was doing? That makes no sense.

How about this one then: “The Senate bill is in many ways a breakthrough, especially in covering 31 million uninsured Americans and ensuring that no one can be denied insurance because of preexisting conditions. But progressives had to give up the idea of a public insurance option, and organized labor had to compromise on taxing ‘Cadillac’ health plans.” Well that explains why liberals aren’t very enthusiastic, but we’re not yet hearing why the other side is grabbing those signs. (Could it be what’s in that health-care bill? Could it be something the Democrats did? Nah! Press on!)

Or could it be Obama’s handling of the economy? Mai, non! “On the economy, there is probably not much more that the administration could have done to ameliorate the pain so many Americans are feeling.”

At the end of his search for reasons, Robinson tip-toes to the vicinity of the truth: “The other major reason for the enthusiasm gap is that Republicans have been winning far too many battles in the ‘message’ war — for example, turning ‘affordable health care for all’ into ‘big government takeover.’” It’s the message mind you; nothing the Democrats have done.

If you’re looking for any recognition that the Democrats have overreached, that they’ve freaked out the country, that the tea party protesters are protesting against something, that the country is in an uproar because Obama ran as a moderate and has governed (or tried to) from the Left, you’ll be disappointed. If a pending loss in Massachusetts hasn’t done the trick, it’s hard to see what might finally get through to them. I suppose crushing losses in November. We’ll find out.

Eugene Robinson is typical of the liberal pundits who are grudgingly acknowledging that Obama and his Democratic congressional allies are in deep trouble. However, he is less candid about the reasons.

Well there’s an “enthusiasm gap,” he says. He sneers: “Vocal opponents of the president and the Democratic congressional leadership are eager, motivated and so excited that they can’t wait to grab their ‘tea party’ signs and march around the neighborhood. Vocal supporters of the president are … well, at the moment they aren’t even particularly vocal.” But why? We’re told there are “reasons beyond the president’s control.” Ah, the Republicans (in the minority in both houses and discredited nationwide after 2008) opposed him. Really? The enthusiasm gap sprung up because the minority party opposed what he was doing? That makes no sense.

How about this one then: “The Senate bill is in many ways a breakthrough, especially in covering 31 million uninsured Americans and ensuring that no one can be denied insurance because of preexisting conditions. But progressives had to give up the idea of a public insurance option, and organized labor had to compromise on taxing ‘Cadillac’ health plans.” Well that explains why liberals aren’t very enthusiastic, but we’re not yet hearing why the other side is grabbing those signs. (Could it be what’s in that health-care bill? Could it be something the Democrats did? Nah! Press on!)

Or could it be Obama’s handling of the economy? Mai, non! “On the economy, there is probably not much more that the administration could have done to ameliorate the pain so many Americans are feeling.”

At the end of his search for reasons, Robinson tip-toes to the vicinity of the truth: “The other major reason for the enthusiasm gap is that Republicans have been winning far too many battles in the ‘message’ war — for example, turning ‘affordable health care for all’ into ‘big government takeover.’” It’s the message mind you; nothing the Democrats have done.

If you’re looking for any recognition that the Democrats have overreached, that they’ve freaked out the country, that the tea party protesters are protesting against something, that the country is in an uproar because Obama ran as a moderate and has governed (or tried to) from the Left, you’ll be disappointed. If a pending loss in Massachusetts hasn’t done the trick, it’s hard to see what might finally get through to them. I suppose crushing losses in November. We’ll find out.

Read Less




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