It does not feel like it, but we are winning the war against ObamaCare.
You may feel like the political system is broken and the Democrats are not listening to the voters. You feel that way because it is true, the Democrats are not listening. But that does not mean the bill will not die -- because it turns out that the two Independent Senators are listening.
Clearly, the Democratic Senate leadership and the White House put so much pressure on the so-called moderate Senators to win this one vote to proceed to the bill, they created a political mirage that the bill's chances are strong. But they are not. The bill is very brittle, and when it implodes, it will shatter.
As the bill stands right now, the Democrats cannot pass it. They cannot get to 60 votes on the vote to end the filibuster of the bill.
If they try to take the public option out, Senator Sanders and others (Burris, Brown and Franken) are threatening to vote against ending the filibuster. If they keep the public option in, then Senator Lieberman has threatened to vote against ending the filibuster. Either way -- public option in or out -- the bill dies. And Senator Sanders is not going to agree to any co-oped-trigger-opt-out compromise on the public option.
Is it any surprise that the two Independent Senators have put the Senate in this position? They are listening to the public, and are playing a role that no single Democratic Senator has the courage to play -- you know, listen to your voters.
Turns out the moderates like Senators Lincoln, Landrieu and Nelson are now viewed by their voters as servants of Senator Reid and the White House. They destroyed all their work to try and get their voters to see them as something other than liberal Democrats who will just spend and tax and spend. This was the highest price Senator Reid paid to win the vote to proceed to the bill: he has forced the so-called moderate Senators look like lap-dogs.
Now the moderates are going to have to do something equally dramatic to convince their voters they are not puppets of Senator Reid and the White House. And the only thing dramatic enough is to vote against ending the filibuster of the ObamaCare. It is the only vote that matters now.
Meanwhile, the Dems sink farther in the polls the longer health care is front and center -- and the Senate rules are going to make sure the health care bill is front and center. Here is how:
Every single amendment offered on the Senate floor will be filibustered. Every single one, so the Dems will need, again, 60 votes, just to attempt to vote on an amendment to the Reid bill. Here is how Senator Lieberman described the Senate floor on ObamaCare over the weekend:
"[O]nce the bill is on the floor, amendments will be offered," he said on Sunday. "But essentially every amendment is subject to a filibuster and will take 60 votes to pass. My only resort, and every other senator -- and there will be others who feel exactly the way I do about the public option, if the public option is still in there -- the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor."
Finally, I am really shocked, but some one in the Democratic party is talking rationally about the negative political impact health care is having on their members and on the Democratic Congress. (Usually this concern is expressed by Democrats as -- we need to focus on jobs and the economy.)
But this morning was different. Howard Dean (the former National Democratic Party Chairman) said the Democrats were "playing with dynamite" and that health care was opening up "huge divisions within the Democratic party" and that there are going to be "high costs" in terms of lost Congressional seats in 2010, because President Obama will not be on the ballot. Dean also said without a public option, the activists will sit on their hands in 2010. Clearly, the left is worried the public option will be dropped to get Senator Lieberman's vote and are now positioning themselves, through Senator Sanders and Howard Dean, to stop that from happening.
But what Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders and Senator Lieberman are really doing is laying the political framework for the collapse of ObamaCare -- because they believe the political costs of passing something with or without a public option are just too high -- and I agree with them.
(Rich Lowry also agrees that the health care issue is killing the Democrats politically. "The Democrats Health Care Delusion," is particularly harsh, and one I agree with.)
And the public option is just one of many politically damaging issues the Democrats must deal with in the Senate: abortion, tax increases, huge spending increases, Medicare cuts and government control of health care, are all going to be in play.
There are other political forces at work too: Senator Sanders and Howard Dean likely sees that the left will take the blame for health care costing huge numbers of House and Senate seats in 2010, and it will impair the left's entire non-health care agenda. So they are now trying to build a firewall against that blame -- by pointing to any lack of a public option as the real cause of the collapse of health care reform.
Just for the record, on cloture votes in the U.S. Senate, the anti-ObamaCare and pro-ObamaCare forces are tied, 1-1. We won the "doc fix" cloture vote by 13 votes, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Reid won the recent cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the bill by not a single vote to spare.
Now, the moderates must go above and beyond opposing the White House and Senator Reid for them to earn their so-called moderate label back. Right now, the voters are never going to believe these Senators again about happy-talk about being concerned about the public option, or the deficit, or being pro-life, or fighting against new taxes, or opposing Medicare cuts.
The only way they are going to be able to prove they are truly concerned is for them to vote against ending the filibuster of the bill, and actually kill the bill. But it doesn't matter if these Dems cave on the filibuster, the Independent Senators have said they won't.
Perhaps this is why Senator Lieberman said on Sunday, "I don't think anybody thinks this bill will pass."
UPDATE, with a H/T to Drudge, for making this his lead story: Gerald F. Seib's opening from his story "Lieberman Digs In on Public Option," from the Wall Street Journal, is worth quoting:
"Sen. Joseph Lieberman, speaking in that trademark sonorous baritone, utters a simple statement that translates into real trouble for Democratic leaders: "I'm going to be stubborn on this."
Stubborn, he means, in opposing any health-care overhaul that includes a "public option," or government-run health-insurance plan, as the current bill does. His opposition is strong enough that Mr. Lieberman says he won't vote to let a bill come to a final vote if a public option is included.
Probe for a catch or caveat in that opposition, and none is visible. Can he support a public option if states could opt out of the plan, as the current bill provides? "The answer is no," he says in an interview from his Senate office. "I feel very strongly about this." How about a trigger, a mechanism for including a public option along with a provision saying it won't be used unless private insurance plans aren't spreading coverage far and fast enough? No again.
So any version of a public option will compel Mr. Lieberman to vote against bringing a bill to a final vote? "Correct," he says."
Hmmm, says I.