The pretense of bi-partisanship is being dropped by the Democrats in the health care reform debate as it now appears they are ready to go it alone to get something passed and rescue Obama’s presidency from irrelevancy.
Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times:
Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.
Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said the heated opposition was evidence that Republicans had made a political calculation to draw a line against any health care changes, the latest in a string of major administration proposals that Republicans have opposed.
“The Republican leadership,” Mr. Emanuel said, “has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day.”
The Democratic shift may not make producing a final bill much easier. The party must still reconcile the views of moderate and conservative Democrats worried about the cost and scope of the legislation with those of more liberal lawmakers determined to win a government-run insurance option to compete with private insurers.
On the other hand, such a change could alter the dynamic of talks surrounding health care legislation, and even change the substance of a final bill. With no need to negotiate with Republicans, Democrats might be better able to move more quickly, relying on their large majorities in both houses.
It’s actually sort of amusing. The Democrats have supermajorities in both houses of congress, they control the presidency, the bureaucracy, the press, and other major propaganda organs.
And they’re blaming Republicans for their woes?
The Times dances around the real significance of this decision by the Democrats. Allahpundit at Hot Air explains :
[T]his can only mean that they’re going to go all out for the public option and use “reconciliation” if need be to nuke the filibuster in the Senate, no? Why cut the GOP out of negotiations only to settle for some watered-down alternative like co-ops? If you’re going to kick the minority party out of the room and anger half the country, you might as well make the bill as syrupy sweet to your own side as possible. And if that means having to take a precedent-setting step as draconian as reconciliation to deal with Blue Dogs like Ben Nelson who might not accept a public option, hey. Besides, Grassley and Jon Kyl all but told the Democrats today that they won’t vote for the final bill regardless of what’s in it, in which case it’s pointless for The One to keep making concessions. He might as well get the bill he wants, paint the GOP as “the party of no”, and hope that the inevitable ill effects of his program don’t appear before the midterms. Which they probably won’t.
I call reconciliation the “Armageddon Option” because the aftermath will blow up Washington like no other event in recent memory. The senate is a peculiar institution, steeped in tradition, governed by a kind of amity between members of both parties that, while strained today, nevertheless continues to dominate its proceedings. The minority gets a much better shake via senate rules than in the House and consequently, the potential for minority mischief in sabotaging the majority’s agenda are manifest.
The use - or rather, the clear abuse - of the reconciliation process to get health care reform passed by a simple majority with no chance to filibuster would be unprecedented - dangerous territory for the tradition-bound senate. The GOP has already threatened to slow the business of the senate to a crawl if the tactic is used; something they are more than capable of doing under the rules.
Imagine having the entire Congressional Record of the previous day read out loud. It’s one of the first orders of business and the reading is always dispensed with by unanimous consent. Suppose the Republicans object? The Democrats would be forced to call for a vote - the first of potentially dozens of votes of that day and every single day as the GOP would force the complete reading of all bills and amendments, constantly notice the absence of a quorum, force votes on trivialities, object to all unanimous consent requests and voice votes, and generally wreak havoc to the point where no real business could be done.
The Democrats threatened something similar over the “nuclear option” on judges that the GOP was seriously contemplating at one time. The threat made the Republicans back off and led to the “Gang of 14″ compromise. It is doubtful any such compromise on health care reform could be worked out, which makes the Democrat’s threat to “go it alone” on health care reform that much more likely to lead to a showdown.
With the GOP out of the picture, let’s see how negotiations between liberals and moderates in the Democratic party proceed. One thing seems pretty clear; the public option just got some new life and reports of its demise - including mine from yesterday - appear to have been greatly exaggerated.