Obamacare

Is Health Care Reform Dead?

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Dead as a…?

It's still early, so any talk of disco and doorknobs may be premature. But given the number of Democratic legislators who've already said they're not too interested, I'd say that chances are that Democrats will to have to call off their health care reform efforts shortly—perhaps even by the end of the day tomorrow.

As they say, predictions are hard, especially about the future. But I don't see any plausible options for reform supporters. And reform supporters aren't floating any serious possibilities either: In a conversation with Chris Matthews, liberal MSNBC political correspondent Lawrence O'Donnell just said something to the effect of "I know all the procedures that are available, and I don't know one that can work." For Democrats, it's fourth down, 99 yards to go, they need three touchdowns, and a home run too, but all they have on the field are ping-pong players.

Not surprisingly, reform's biggest boosters are already pretty miffed. Here's Ezra Klein:

For now, it's worth observing that a Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn't a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power. If they don't believe in the importance of their policies, why should anyone who's skeptical change their mind? If they're not interested in actually passing their agenda, why should voters who agree with Democrats on the issues work to elect them?

But it's not clear that all the Democrats actually wanted to pass this bill to begin with. Just because Obama and the other presidential candidates proposed health care reform on the campaign trail doesn't mean that everyone in the party was on board: A president's campaign proposals aren't universal party sentiments. Take Sen. Joe Lieberman, for example. Though he caucused with Democrats, it's far from certain that passing reform was ever something he really cared to do—in the end, he only supported it after a power play (and now he's joined the chorus of wary Democrats). Or take someone like Sen. Ben Nelson, a popular politician with a safe seat who sold his vote for special home-state Medicaid funding, only to face a significant backlash upon his return home. And then there's Blanche Lincoln, who, facing a tough reelection and a state full of voters who opposed reform, had minimal to no incentive to vote for the bill aside from party pressure, and likely would have been just as happy if the bill never came up for a vote. And then there are the Blue Dogs, who hail from conservative districts none-too-taken with big-government reform. These are only the most obvious examples. But it's clear that some number of Democrats were never too keen on passing the bill.

Meanwhile, Democrats only ever managed to bring about 1/3 of the public along with their specific plan—but succeeded in convincing a huge number of those who started out undecided that it was a bad idea. To successfully pass significant legislation in American politics, you need buy-in from either a party or the public—preferably both. But in the case of health care, it's not clear that Democrats ever had either.

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  1. “For now, it’s worth observing that a Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn’t a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power.”
    Yes, actually listening to the voters is merely democratic, not Democratic.

  2. I am incredibly skeptical of Suderman’s conclusions. If this sped bill doesn’t pass, I will eat my shoe.

  3. Yes, I think it is indeed dead. If they went ahead and ramrodded this thing through anyway, they would get absolutely hammered in November.

    And it’s their own fault for building it up into the make or break issue for the party.

  4. If you’re right, Hazel, I will be the first to pass around a virtual glass of bubbly. But I’m going to sit and wait to see what sort of panic-y tactics the beltway has in store. Already working on a celebratory t-shirt in my Zazzle.com store. Won’t publish the T until I know for a fact that this crib child, as Tulpa might put it, is dead and blue.

  5. If Barney “lie through my teeth” Frank has bailed on it, it’s dead. They were already strongarming a bunch of their own party; without the supermajority, say bye-bye. They had a limited window to do this, and that window just closed.

  6. Short-term thinking vs. Long-term thinking.

    Dems in toss-up districts know this going to kill them, but those in safe seats know that this is a game changer long-term. If this bill passes, every election in the future will be about healthcare. Look how Democrats demagogue about Medicare, saying evil Republicans are going to throw Grandma out in to the cold. Now imagine a system where everyone, not just seniors, is dependent. Or better yet, look at the UK where nearly every election turns on the NHS.

    Democrats are not going to be this close to passing HCR again for quite awhile. If they were smart they would cram it through and take the short term hit.

    Luckily, I don’t think they are that smart. Otherwise they would have realized sooner the danger they were in, even before last night.

  7. But it’s not clear that all the Democrats actually wanted to pass this bill to begin with.

    What made it into the bill, aside from specific payoffs, didn’t matter much to them, so they’re not as a group very attached to it?except as a president-demanded whatever that can be called “reform” and taken credit for (with future benefits to the party that its current representatives don’t now expect to survive to reap).

    However, Obama’s attachment to the always widely hated and now specifically repudiated whatever is just mindlessly destructive (now, if it wasn’t always), and a crazy guy with nothing to lose can make people do things.

    They’ll do this.

  8. ?, I think I agree with your last three words, but I have doubts. It will be interesting to see what we’re talking about 30 days from now, re: health care reform. Thirty days ago, we were certain this was fait accompli.

  9. Having watched a small portion of the Olby, Maddow, Matthews chattering about this tonight (right after Brown won) I am less than convinced that Peter is right.

    They seem to be gung-ho. So having binary input (Martha wins or loses) these three wind up in the same place…Progressivism: Faster Please.

    My only hope…the same three unloaded for years on Dems about war funding, foaming at the mouth on the turn coat Dems. So maybe no adult Dems take them seriously.

  10. I’m amazed at the dem’s ability to screw up their signature issue. They’ve formed a circular firing squad and it’s gonna be fun to watch the carnage.

  11. If they don’t believe in the importance of their policies, why should anyone who’s skeptical change their mind?

    Let me take a stab at that. A “belief” in the “importance” of a policy is not an argument for adopting the policy.

    1. Another stab might be that the liberal wing of the Democratic party has shown no lack of interest in ramming it through.

      The thing the peanut gallery should have been bitching about, is that there’s just not quite enough hard left progressives in the country to enable them to really pull it off.

      1. No Ebeneezer, the liberal theory is that there are some smart people who know what’s best for all of us. Maybe that’s true. When one of the smart people, Ezra Klein in this case, can’t form a basic argument, the theory becomes suspect to rubes like me.

        1. I suspect that in the end we’re sort of agreeing in principle and just coming at it from different angles.

  12. The house will vote yea for the senate bill and pass changes later. Don’t get too excited

    1. Ah doan theenk so omeego.

      1. If they ramrod this thing through now, then a) the backlash just might be strong enough to get it repealed, and b) the Democratic party really will implode.

        I for one would love watching the creation of a new black hole. The problem is, it might suck us all in.

        I’m betting it’s now dead. I think even Nancy-Baby Her Very Own Self can smell the danger of continuing to ramrod, in spite of her stated intention to do so.

        1. I for one would love watching the creation of a new black hole. The problem is, it might suck us all in.

          Once again, blackholes don’t work that way.

  13. Omniscience is cool, eh, Eric?

  14. I don’t see the moderate/blue-dogs house democrats being all that anxious to fall on their swords for the greater glory of Pelosi/Obama. This train-wreck barely survived its first trip through the House of Representatives. The blue-dogs have to be thinking “if this can happen in Massachusetts, if vote for this health-care bill I’m dead”.

    I don’t see any political cover and/or bribe big enough to convince them otherwise.

    1. I don’t know. What’s the congressional equivalent of “You just won the lottery”?

      I tend to agree with you, but part of me is still nervous. The size of the bribe and the prospects of bankrupting the country hasn’t slowed them down yet. The question is, what would they have to offer all these Reps to get them to do commit political suicide?

      Though even if this bill is dead, I’m not sure we’re going to avoid a bankrupt Fed. It’s just not looking good….

      1. I don’t know. What’s the congressional equivalent of “You just won the lottery”?

        I tend to agree with you, but part of me is still nervous. The size of the bribe and the prospects of bankrupting the country hasn’t slowed them down yet. The question is, what would they have to offer all these Reps to get them to do commit political suicide?

        Bribing 30 people is 30 times more expensive than bribing one, and these bribes will have to be one-shot deals, too, since the members will be giving up all future bribe-getting ability once they’re voted out.

        I don’t think they can do it. There are only so many college presidencies and ambassadorships available.

  15. Who says this bill is the real short-term goal? Progressives have always been incrementalists, pushing a bill hard and then offering a watered-down “compromise” to get the Republicans on board has been a tried and true strategy for years. Only the lure of a filibuster-proof majority led them to the current insanity. Since Republicans are stupid and think that what the media says about them matters, they’ll listen when the next bill, offering 40% of ObamaCare, comes down the pike and the media demands the Republicans be “bipartisan” and cooperate to get it passed.

    1. Nope. They’re out of time and capital. Maybe if the economy weren’t in the shitter, or the underwear bomber hadn’t eaten the President’s credibility, that might happen. At this point, the hand is called. Either Pelosi has the cards, or she doesn’t. They have to be on to a jobs bill by the week after the SOTU or they spend the entire primary season getting savaged for not caring about the unemployed.

  16. Didn’t it only pass the house by 2 votes before Brown won? No fucking way will it pass now.

  17. Ezra Klein’s tears are so yummy and sweet.

  18. Actually looking for some advice: My Rep and one of my Senators (Voinovich) are safe votes against the HCR bills, but my other Senator – SHERROD Brown – is pretty much in the tank for it. I haven’t bothered to write him to voice my opposition, figuring it would be a waste of time. Now, I’m almost inspired enough to send him my tuppence-worth.

    Question: Is it worth writing him? If so, what points are worth including? (BTW, he’s not up for re-election ’til 2012. And he has a daughter who works for the SEIU, per Wikipedia.) I’m looking for something that MIGHT actually make a tiny dent. Is there such a thing?

    1. I’m an Ohioan as well and I would say there is zero chance of effecting Brown in any way. He is a hard-core liberal and was elected in a toss-up state running that way because of the anti-incumbancy/Republican environment of 2006.

      He will have tough time in his 2012 race because of his hard left voting record, but that is not going to change him. He is a die-hard.

    2. One of the comments that I read about the Brown/Coakley race was from a union member who did not believe that they would be exempt from the tax. Considering how most unions have superior insurance they just might be a bit hesitant. They recognize that the people pushing this have no loyalty to anyone but themselves and that they might be among the first pushed under the bus after it’s passage.

    3. You don’t need words. Just small pieces of paper with pictures of Ulysses Grant, or better yet Ben Franklin, on them.

      And you send them to Brown’s opponent, not Brown himself. But you can be quite sure Brown will get the message, particularly if you send it early and often.

  19. ping-pong players

    That’s table tennis you degenerate ingrate! Nice job assuming a top athlete like a table tennis player couldn’t hit a home run or score a touch down. Sports snob.

  20. As a group, their mouths may have watered at the control centralized healthcare planning brings, but individually these congress fucks are moving into pure self-preservation mode.

    The kick in the pants they got from the Massachesetts voting public was so obvious that the Dems are going to be ignoring leadership and for the next ten months trying their best to make their districts forget this whole thing ever happened.

  21. I hope someone’s put a suicide watch on Paul Krugman.

    (‘cuz, dammit, if that guy’s gonna commit suicide, I wanna watch)

    1. I’m picturing something like the suicide scene in The Royal Tenenbaums. Krugman looking in the mirror and cutting off his beard before slitting his wrists.

  22. Is that Alice in the picture? I never realized she was so…dark-skinned.

  23. For now, it’s worth observing that a Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn’t a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power.

    Behold — the dems do not “deserve” to hold power.

    However, I’m not convinced they’re abandoning their “central initiative”, which is not health care reform per se. We’ve only *begun* to see the disingenuous antics the hard core is up to during this time of perceived mandate. The blue dogs are just pawns.

  24. My guess is that the current reform is history. I think Senators value being a Senator above all else, and a state of brain-washed Teddy worshippers electing a Republican Senator is about as clear a signal as they’ll get.

  25. I don’t think HCR is dead but it does need to be transparent and without the influence of special interests. The Democrats are capable but perhaps not willing to undertake this task. I think you are all kidding yourselves if you think this is the end of legislating reform.

    1. The Democrats are capable but perhaps not willing to undertake this task.

      No, they aren’t able, even if they were willing. This is a democracy we’ve got here, or at least, one of its near cousins. If you know anything at all about how they work, you’ll know that getting rid of “special interests” influence is utterly impossible.

      You cannot have representative government that is open to input by The People at large, without simultaneously leaving the door open for those “special interests” to be walking through it to.

      Unless you’re trying to tell me that the Democrats are entirely capable of ushering in a dictatorship, after which they get to just go do whatever they feel like without taking anybody else’s inputs?

      1. “You cannot have representative government that is open to input by The People at large, without simultaneously leaving the door open for those “special interests” to be walking through it too.” Perhaps I should have made it clear that I do not object to lobbyist themselves but the wheelbarrows of cash that they are transporting to our elected officials. We can’t even begin to compete on this uneven playing field until we reform the process. Hmm,an argument for new blood: “getting rid of “special interests” influence is utterly impossible”.

        1. I too am disgusted with the vote buying that goes on. But I don’t believe there’s any real way to stop it.

          Though, my first shot at an attempt would be to fill all congressional seats on something like a jury duty system. Draw names at random, with some kind of requirements for seats in the House and Senate.

          The whole concept of a House of Lords and Commons must be preserved, or we really will be in trouble.

          I’m not sure how well this idea would work, but I doubt the congress animals we ended up with would be any worse than what we’re getting now.

          1. Ebeneezer Scrooge,”my first shot at an attempt would be to fill all congressional seats on something like a jury duty system.” My theory on professions that require integrity is that the only pre-requisite should be that they do not want the job. Not to confuse you but we are also discussing this under my “HCR or bust” name.

  26. I must have admit, I have been trolling lefty sites all day, even at work. I haven’t been gloating or commenting…just checking reaction and collecting sweet tears to sip from a goblet later.
    I must also admit I did the same thing on righty sites when Obama was elected (with special attention paid to “white nationalist” websites. Tasty!).
    Something I want all the libs here to understand, in response to the rationalizations I’ve been seeing in comments to various Reason articles:
    1. The average guy thinks, “I am a smart, decent American and I want/believe (insert idea). Therefore, every smart, decent American must want/believe (insert idea). Anyone who doesn’t want/believe (insert idea) must be stupid, indecent, and unAmerican.”
    That’s called projecting and it is completely wrong. Intelligent, decent folks can and do routinely disagree due to differing experiences, levels of wealth, and an incalculable number of other reasons. Those who disagree with you are not all stupid, selfish or evil.

    2. No one party has a monopoly on good or bad ideas. Few ideas work perfectly when put into practice. This is because people are individuals and what is good for some is not always good for all. Numerous laws and regulations are going to harm SOMEONE. Even laws that are purposely designed to punish some group can end up hurting unintended targets as an unforeseen second or third order effect. Trust me, I’ve lived this.
    3. No one can say with complete certainty why “the people” voted to elect a candidate (again, that “people as distinct individuals with varying motives” problem crops up). However, we can make some broad assumptions; Martha Coakley supported certain policies that Scott Brown opposed. Mass. voters elected Scott Brown. Therefore, the broad conclusion would be that the voters joined Scott Brown in opposing the policies that Martha Coakley supports.

  27. “And then there are the Blue Dogs”

    No such animal.

  28. I have seen a few stories in the past week which basically said, “Everybody has been focused on the Senate, but getting 218 votes in the House is no certain thing.”

    I’ve got my fingers crossed.

  29. Time to start a new discussion, or go back to an old one ….

    What should health insurance reform REALLY look like? let libertarians weigh in.

    Here’s my proposal:
    1. Repeal McCarren Fergeson.
    Let insurance companies compete across state lines, allowing consumers to take their insurance with them when they move and buy a lower-priced insurance plan from a different state.

    2. Eliminate the employer deduction for health insurance. As a one-time measure to make it palatable, require employers dropping coverage to raise their employees wages instead.

    3. Bar insurance companies from dropping patients after they are already sick, if they lose insurance because they switch jobs or otherwise stop paying, and require them to keep paying until the conclusion of treatment.

    4. Relax restrictions on who can practice medicine. Require the AMA to allow anyone who can pass the tests to become a doctor, instead of setting a numerical cap. Allow nurse practitioners to perform some basic medical procedures. Allow pharmacies to open basic care medical clinics. Relax restrictions on the sale of certain drugs. Make more drugs available over the counter without a prescription.

    1. I’ll drink to that.

      And if you’d like to run for office, I’d probably even contribute to your campaign.

      One of our central problems is that the people who are principled are either unwilling to run, or lack the right personal charisma to succeed at it (I rate myself as falling short on both counts).

    2. Oh yeah, I should add … they should make it possible to buy certain tests in handy kits in pharmacies.

      Why should I have to go to a clinic for to have them administer a Strep-A test, when all they do is rip open a pre-packaged kit anyway? Why can’t I do that at home?

      And what about flu vaccines? Why does that have to be administered by a nurse? I should be able to take the nasal spray flu vaccine myself using handy instructions in a cardboard box.

  30. I think breaking the link between employers and insurance coverage should be priority number one.

  31. You know what would fix this political insanity? Repealing popular election of Senators.

  32. Yeah, the voters wanted a president that would change things. Obama told everyone what he would pursue and how is he was going to go about it. The problem is the “voters” no longer want it. The bottom line in EVERYTHING is to remember: The poor can go to hell and big business will win. As long as you follow that you are good to go. Shame on you Obama for forgetting!

  33. I hate the repubs for stonewalling and the dems for being wishy washy. Alas the american people wil lcontinue to suffer and big business will win. The only way out is to play to stock market casino and hope you are smart enough to out manipulate the manipulators.

  34. it is so easy to be negative about HCR when you are in good health. Have any of you ever payed a 20% deductible on a million dollar health care bill. Let me do the math that is $200,000 dollars and how many people just have that sitting in their banks? Someone please explain to me how private insurance is the way to go? The political banter is what is ruining this country!ENOUGH!!

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