Slate’s John Dickerson has finally said what has been so glaringly obvious for so many months, but has been ignored, not discussed and generally denied by the MSM and the supporters of ObamaCare with great discipline: the internal divisions inside the Democratic Party over specific policy issues contained inside ObamaCare could cause it to collapse:
“With nearly all Republicans opposed to the president’s plan, the last stages of negotiations will be among Democratic factions. Obama came into office promising to bridge the partisan divide in Washington. But the outcome of the health care debate may depend more on his ability to bridge the divides in his own party.”
This is the “teachable moment” that comes from the vote and failure of the public option in the Senate Finance Committee.
The standard party line among the Democratic leadership — especially the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — has been the missteps, mistakes, chaos and general political failure of ObamaCare is all the Republican’s fault. But even the liberal FireDogLake and DailyKos know this blame-the-Republicans is goat food for the brain dead. The Public Option vote has put the lie to the it’s-the-Republican’s-fault.
Interestingly, the White House and the Speaker have 180 degree difference in their responses to the dealing with each of the issues that could cause Democratic members to vote NO on ObamaCare, with the Public Option being exhibit A in this “teachable moment.”
The White House ducks, dodges, bobs, weaves, flips and flops — all with great and wondrous conviction and oration. It is perfectly unclear where Obama is on the public option — he tells his own members of his party different things in public than he does the public.
The Speaker, meanwhile, has not budged in her repeated insistence that the House bill have a public option. Her public and private comments have been the same — and she over ruled a deal with the Blue Dogs made prior to the August recess which would have tempered the Public Option — she will not be denied, nor will the 83 signatories of the letter that threatens they will vote NO if there is not a robust public option.
The Dangers of a Write-Anything-You-Want-in-the-Bill-Process
The Speaker can do what ever she wants with the merged bills from the three Committee’s of jurisdiction — not quite the same as the Senate bringing up a vapor-bill — but the Speaker can re-write ObamaCare in the House Rules Committee, and she can do whatever she pleases in the great “merge” process.
Change the taxes in the bill? No problem. Include Rep. Stupak’s explicit ban on abortion and iron-clad conscience protection for doctors and nurses, easy as pie. Write in language that prevents illegal aliens from being insured, OK. End the cuts to Medicare Advantage — can do. Stop the cuts to Medicare — YES WE CAN. Make sure the bill contains the public option — you bet. Raise or lower the spending levels — yep. Take a pound of flesh from the insurers — done. Change every American’s health plan within five years to fit the design specs of the Secretary of HHS and not allow any others — already happening.
The real problem is that Democratic members, like most who enter public life, actually care about some of these issues — and they are, in the main, binary yes/no issues. Yes or No on the Public Option — there is no gray or maybe, kinda, sorta, if it works like this it will be OK — there is or there isn’t. The same is true for the passion-infested issues of the tax structure and Medicare cuts to pay for ObamaCare, abortion and providing ObamaCare to illegal immigrants, and the overall spending levels of a trillion dollars.
And this is why the 72 hour — read the bill — movement is such a threat to ObamaCare.
Everyone knows that the Speaker can do whatever she wants with the language. That is the problem: everyone knows she can change it to what they insist it be — so they can vote for it.
The cram-down is not just for the American people, it is for members of her own party. As far as I can tell, there really is no way to make everyone in the Democratic party happy and comfortable with what is in the ObamaCare bill, without insisting that they not see the language before the vote.
And the policy issue discomfort among members of Congress is reflected by the continuing and deflating poll numbers and hardening of the public’s attitude on ObamaCare.
The fact that the liberals in the House acknowledge they will lose members in the up-coming election, and that they want those losing members to be the pesky Blue Dogs who are such a problem for their agenda, does not build the whole team spirit, take one for the team thing.
The correct approach to all of these issues is to take the leading proponent and leading opponent of each of the key issues that are creating the political forces that are pulling the bill apart, and allow amendments to be offered and voted on — so the House can work its will.
The majority will say they do not want to expose their Members to these kinds of votes, but what the House Leadership has not yet realized, their members are already exposed to these kinds of votes — in their ObamaCare bill.
Meanwhile, the White House and the President are perfectly happy to say whatever they want to say about these binary issues. For example, on abortion the White House has said there will be an explicit ban on taxpayer dollars funding abortion, and that the bill will not provide coverage to illegal aliens — but then to refuse to define what his explicit ban on abortion means, and to publicly announce that the illegals should be made legal, to get health care.
And this then encourages members of his own party to want language in ObamaCare to illegal immigrants to be explicitly covered under ObamaCare.
By embracing the magic write-what-ever-you-want-the-bill-to-be-and-not-let-anyone-see-it, the White House, the Speaker and the Senate have created a monster where every one knows that they can get what they want in the bill, but few trust that it will turn out that way.
And the net result is Members of Congress who would just rather not vote on any of it, and a public that is opposed to any reform.
Quite rationally, the public has collectively decided they would rather have the devil they know than the devil they don’t-know-what.