The president’s decision to appeal for help to the hard-left edge of the blogosphere tells us his health care plans are faltering in the Senate where hopefully risky, radical and increasingly widely unpopular schemes go to die, even when one party has 60 votes.
In another attempt to save his radical attempt to remake American medicine from sinking under the weight of common sense and objections on cost and other grounds, President Obama conducted a conference call with bloggers from the leftosphere. So much for any pretense that the hard-left scheme to move the country to Canada-style single payor has anything to do with common-sense, reasonable reform of aspects of a generally-admirable health care system. The president went to his hard-edged shock troops –a political strategic reserve– and asked them to rush and bully the Hill. No doubt they will, but will Democratic senators and an increasing number of House members looking at a difficult re-election landscape a mere 15 months down the road be pushed into political suicide by the posters at Daily Kos?
One of the lefty bloggers did a great job of asking the most important and serious question on the table right now. It was Jonathan Singer of MyDD who asked the $64,000 question about using a parliamentary device called reconciliation to jam the radical rewrite of the health law through the Senate with only 50 votes. Just yesterday on my program, Politico’s Mike Allen relayed the view within the MSM that the 50-vote reconciliation process was dead as an option for health care legislation. Here’s the exchange:
Jonathan Singer: Well thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Mr. President. Given the timeline and the fact that it seems like bills may not be through both the House and Senate by the August recess, is there a point at which you would say to the Senate, “Sixty votes doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. Use the reconciliation process. Lower the threshold so the Republicans cannot delay the process.” I know that’s not optimal. But is there a point at which you would say that to the Senate?
President Obama: Keep in mind that the way we had structured the reconciliation issue several months ago, we moved forward on the basis of the assumption that we can get a bill through the regular order and the regular process by October. If I think that that is not possible, then we are going to look at all of our options, including reconciliation.
So at least the GOP and moderate Democrats in the Senate are on notice that their colleagues will be pushed to use the jam down.
David Brooks already counts three phases in the already distinct “liberal suicide march” underway (and he doesn’t even include the quick step cap-and-tax-and-tax-and-tax bill):
We’re only in the early stages of the liberal suicide march, but there already have been three phases. First, there was the stimulus package. You would have thought that a stimulus package would be designed to fight unemployment and stimulate the economy during a recession. But Congressional Democrats used it as a pretext to pay for $787 billion worth of pet programs with borrowed money. Only 11 percent of the money will be spent by the end of the fiscal year -a triumph of ideology over pragmatism.
Then there is the budget. Instead of allaying moderate anxieties about the deficits, the budget is expected to increase the government debt by $11 trillion between 2009 and 2019.
Finally, there is health care. Every clich? Ann Coulter throws at the Democrats is gloriously fulfilled by the Democratic health care bills. The bills do almost nothing to control health care inflation. They are modeled on the Massachusetts health reform law that is currently coming apart at the seams precisely because it doesn’t control costs. They do little to reward efficient providers and reform inefficient ones.
Brooks is right about the left’s lurch for everything on the top shelf of its best bar, and its refusal to water down any of the brands. His scant hope in the Blue Dogs as a restraining force is also reasonable as this caucus is more of a press release than a political entity.
The only check on the left’s ambitions for the next 15 months until a hopefully sobered-up American rebalances D.C. for going forward is the U.S. Senate and the hope that at least 51 senators are alert enough to understand that Obamamania will pass even as his numbers fall, but that the damage to the country –and their own political futures– from the radicals’ rush to rip health care to the ground and rebuild it in a brave new era image will last and last, and that it has got to be stopped in the Senate.
The Senate’s switchboard is 202-224-3121. Call your home state senators and tell them to stop the health care bill and start over. Tell them no massive deficit additions, no government option/public plan, and no rationing. Tell them no bill in ’09 and a reasonable one in 2010 if at all.
After you have talked to your home state senators –no matter how far to the left or how hopeless the effort– ring up the offices of key Democratic senators looking at tough re-election campaigns like Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and Michael Bennet in Colorado. Throw in Chris Dodd from Connecticut as well. Though it would take a small miracle to peel him away from this wreck of a bill, Dodd’s in big trouble in Connecticut and a wave of callers vowing to contribute to Rob Simmons if this bill passes could have some effect. Similarly a call to Delaware’s Ted Kaufman (warming the seat for young Biden) might help a bit, as may a call to Harry Reid’s office. Both are going to want to help the president, but there’s got to be a limit to how much political pain they’ll absorb for a plan that won’t work to do anything but arm the GOP with a powerful issue in 2010. Indiana’s Evan Bayh, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter and New York’s Kristen Gillibrand are three more whose offices could use a call relaying your intention to contribute to their opponents if they support the health care foolishness. Both of North Dakota’s senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad may be open to opposing the bill, and especially Dorgan who is up for re-election in 2010.
The president’s plan would be dead already except for the reconciliation trickery, but Chicago rules say win anyway you can, even if the win is toxic to the centrists in your party. It will take 51 votes in the Senate to make sure Obamacare stays a hair-brained scheme on a professor’s chalk board and not a rationing nightmare for elderly Americans and a giant tax burden for everyone else.