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“The Smart Money Was Right”

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The Monday morning column from Clark Judge:

The Smart Money was Right
By Clark S. Judge, managing director, White House Writers Group ( <> ) and chairman, Pacific Research Institute ( <> )

The smart money was right. The health overhaul bill has now passed both houses of Congress. When the President signs it later in the week, it will be law.

At around four o’clock yesterday, Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak and the White House announced a deal on right to life. The health overhaul effectively repeals the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of Federal funds to pay for abortions. The White House committed to rescinding that provision of the new law through an executive order. A significant downgrading of a protection that right to life advocates have long cherished, it nevertheless provided Stupak and enough other pro-life Democrats the cover they needed to go along with their chamber’s leadership on the defining legislation of this Congress.[# More #]

The timing of the Stupak deal showed how problematic any pro-life compromise on any issue is for a Democratic administration, and how narrow and brittle was the support for the health care overhaul. The announcement was made late in the afternoon on the day of the vote, too late for pro-choice Democrats to bolt, as they had threatened to do at earlier stages of the talks with Stupak. Presumably the White House had already mined every Democratic vote it could. So with the final margin being three votes, it looks now as though without the switch by Stupak and his followers the vote would have gone the other way.

In the mid-90s, President Clinton promised West Virginia Democratic senator Jay Rockefeller that he would sign a tort reform bill if Rockefeller would secure certain compromises. Rockefeller did, and Clinton broke his word. Clinton’s chronic lying of that kind was a major factor in the bitterness towards the president that was so evident among Congressional Republicans of the time and was in many cases nearly as sharp but under the surface among Congressional Democrats. The remnants of that bitterness among Democrats in Congress became a behind-the-scenes factor in Hillary Clinton’s 2004 primary losses to President Obama.

In contrast, no one doubts that President Obama will be true to his word to Congressman Stupak, who worked out specific language for the executive order before the announcement.

Still, deception has played a major role in the health overhaul campaign, not that anyone seriously engaged actually believed the obfuscations. Everyone penetrated immediately the several year staging of new taxes ahead of new benefits so the Congressional Budget Office would certify a cost below one trillion dollars.

The projected cuts of payments to doctors – a feature of the official cost control scenario – quickly became an object of scorn. A few days ago, a search firm that specializes in recruiting physicians released a poll that found nearly half of U.S. physicians might quit medicine if what they knew about the health overhaul became a reality, this at a time that the same company projects the need for physicians rising by more than 20 percent (see: ).

And despite Federal assurances, numerous states project that mandated increases in Medicaid could cripple them financially. This is a prime factor in the announced intent of many states to go to court against the plan.

So in all likelihood, the Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in. Don’t look for the justices to wade merrily into this swamp. From Bush v. Gore to the presidential tongue lashing at the recent State of the Union address, the Court has felt the fury of Democrats when it has ruled against them on politically sensitive questions.

And while repeal is widely discussed, remember the hurdle. The filibuster now favors reform advocates. And the GOP has not had sixty votes in the Senate anytime since the Taft presidency. A near total wipeout of plausibly vulnerable Senate Democrats will be needed this November and again in 2012 to win a cloture vote.

We have learned a number of lessons from the health overhaul fight. Here is one of the biggest ones: party matters. No Republicans in the Senate or House voted for this legislation. Only a few Democrats voted against it.

It is a lesson to keep in mind when Election Day comes around this November.


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