Megan McArdle warns that trying an end run around the Senate’s rules will prove a costly mistake for democrats.
If the Democrats use budget reconciliation to bypass the Republicans, they will be making a big mistake.
Reconciliation is not meant to handle these sorts of problems; it’s meant to help Congress get revenues in line with outlays without letting protracted negotiations push us into a budget crisis. It’s not possible to do any sort of comprehensive, rational overhaul of the Senate health bill — which after all, was intended to be the opening salvo in a negotiation, not the final bill.
More broadly, for all that Democrats are declaring that they have a mandate, it’s pretty clear that the public does not want them to pass any of the health care bills on the table — which has to include the Obama plan, since it is only a minor tweak on the existing proposals. Polls have shown more Americans opposing passage than supporting it since early summer, and opposition has risen fairly steadily over time.
Democrats have had plenty of time to make their case. They have failed to do so. The longer they have talked, the more firmly the voters have rejected their ideas. If Congress goes ahead anyway, they will pay a terrible political price.
Many progressives are pushing the notion that having already once voted for it, Democrats will pay that political price no matter what, so they might as well pass it. That ignores several factors. First, a hated bill that failed last December is not going to engender the same ire as a hated bill that passed in May.
Back in 2005, when democrats held up George W. Bush’s judicial appointments in an unprecedented display of partisanship, the Republican majority in the Senate threatened to use the so-called “nuclear option,” i.e., to use reconciliation to overcome the filibuster to achieve judicial confirmations.
Diane Feinstein warns: “It begins with judicial nominations, next will be executive appointments, and then legislation.”
After the monster is finally dispatched in the dramatic climax of the conventional exemplar of Hollywood’s scary movie genre, when the nerves of the mass audience begin to relax, pulse rates slowdown, and theater-goers are expecting the final credits to arrive any moment on the screen, it has become traditional for directors to have a little fun by confounding expectations, setting aside all considerations of plausibility, and having the recently slain monster come right back to life and attack (and be dispatched) all over again.
One of the most impressive riffs on this by-now only too familiar trope is performed by Jon Voight, playing a murderous hunter in Anaconda (1997). Voight’s Paul Sarone comes a cropper, winding up in the coils of the giant anaconda. He is squeezed until his bones audibly break, and then ingested while the audience gets a view right down the alimentary passage of the giant reptile. We think we’ve seen the last of the heartless and relentless Sarone, but no, moments later, the snake regurgitates the villain, all covered with digestive juices, who—in one of trash cinema’s moments of genius, proceeds to wink at a truly horrified Jennifer Lopez.
President Obama will put forward comprehensive health care legislation intended to bridge differences between Senate and House Democrats ahead of a summit meeting with Republicans next week, senior administration officials and Congressional aides said Thursday.
Democratic officials said the president’s proposal was being written so that it could be attached to a budget bill as a way of averting a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The procedure, known as budget reconciliation, would let Democrats advance the bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority.
Congressional Democrats, however, have not yet seen the proposal or signed on.
I don’t agree one bit with Ezra Klein’s claim of the public option being popular in the country, but here you see what the democrat party left is telling itself as it winks (from its current moribund position) at a horrified American voting public.
What you’re seeing here are the weird politics of the public option at play. It’s popular in the country. It’s wildly popular among the base. It’s the subject of obsessive interest in the media. There is little downside to supporting it publicly, huge downside to opposing it, and no one is allowed to ignore the issue, or even take a few days to see where the votes are.
But it’s divisive on the Hill. Bringing it back energizes all the narratives that Democrats fear most: That they’re cutting secret deals without Republicans in the room, that they’re building an extremist bill, that health-care reform is a government takeover. And this is all happening without 60 votes in the Senate or even certainty of simple majorities in the Congress. Democrats have spent the last month in a state of agonized confusion, and just as matters were clarifying, now this battle threatens to start up again.
No one I’ve spoken to—even when they support the public option—thinks that its reemergence is good news for health-care reform. It won’t be present in the package that the White House will unveil Monday. Everyone seems to be hoping this bubble will be short-lived.
But it might not be. The media is talking about it, liberals are organizing around it, none of the major actors feels politically capable of playing executioner, and Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson don’t have the power to do the job on their own. As of now, the strategy only has 20 or so supporters, and it’ll need at least another 20 or 25 to really be viable. But if it gets there, White House and Senate leadership are going to have some hard calls to make.
So, there you are. The democrat party base sees no downside, in ramming through a health care bill opposed by 58% of the American public via an unprecedented ultra-partisan maneuver around the conventional rules and procedures of the United States Senate.
If the democrats have the hubris to do all this, well, we will see just how well they like being in the minority in a Republican-controlled Senate with no filibuster. The first thing we should do is to repeal Obamacare, and kill the monster of socialism permanently and for the last time.
Peter Wehner, at Commentary, discusses the wave of fear and acrimony sweeping over the democrat party as their control of the Senate appears may actually be going to swept away in an unprecedented mid-term electoral bloodbath.
The news that Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is retiring is another stunning blow for a Democratic party that is already reeling. This development — because of who Bayh is (perceived as a moderate/centrist); because of the state he represents (a traditionally Red one but won by Barack Obama in 2008); and because of his political situation (it was assumed he was in a comfortable position to win re-election) — will have significant ramifications. It will accelerate almost every bad trend for Democrats (more retirements, fewer entries into national races, more intra-party acrimony, and more panic).
The last time we saw a double-digit shift in Senate seats in a single election was when a former movie actor by the name of Ronald Reagan was elected president (Republicans won a dozen seats back in 1980). A shift of those dimensions in a non-presidential election year would be basically unheard of. But as Jen points out, a pickup of 10 GOP seats — and recontrol of the Senate — is no longer out of the question. America’s political tectonic plates are shifting in a fairly dramatic and rapid fashion; and the resulting dislocation will batter and crush many Democratic candidates, perhaps on a scale we have not witnessed before in our lifetime, at least in a midterm election.
Such an outcome can still be averted — but as many of us have been predicting for a while now, the news for Democrats is continuing to get worse rather than better. Evan Bayh’s retirement is a body blow for the president and his party. It will cause more than a few knees in the Obama White House to buckle. It is beginning to dawn on them just what awaits them.
A democrat senate staffer sent Josh Marshall an email describing the impact on the majority party in Congress of the Massachusetts special election result.
The worst is that I can’t help but feel like the main emotion people in the caucus are feeling is relief at this turn of events. Now they have a ready excuse for not getting anything done. While I always thought we had the better ideas but the weaker messaging, it feels like somewhere along the line Members internalized a belief that we actually have weaker ideas. They’re afraid to actually implement them and face the judgement of the voters. That’s the scariest dynamic and what makes me think this will all come crashing down around us in November.
Of course, theirs are the weaker ideas.
The health care bill was always unaffordable, and always represented an entitlement giveaway certain to increase demand for services dramatically, resulting inevitably in rationed services making health care less available to most Americans in the future.
How mysterious that Americans are not absolutely delighted by the opportunity to bankrupt the country by a process allowing most of us to pay more and get less.
Obama skipped church on Christmas (I guess Reverend Wright was not GD’ing America anywhere nearby), but President Obama took up the slack personally, criticizing the Senate’s rules and procedures allowing minorities to resist passage of controversial measures.
Increasingly unloved and ridiculed from both sides, a new and embittered President Obama is emerging this Christmas season as he begins a badly needed vacation in Hawaii.
In an interview on the eve of yesterday’s health-care ram-through, Obama expressed his deep frustration over the legislative process.
The president accused Republicans of abuse for employing the very rules that make the Senate the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”
“If this pattern continues, you’re going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us,” Obama warned.
What he is saying is that other governments around the world—those tyrannical states that do not share our respect for the minority—are better forms of government, better equipped to compete in this modern world.
Surprise! Harry Reid’s amendment contains some tricky little provisions performing an end-run around the requirement of a two-thirds majority being needed to modify the Rules of the Senate.
Erik Erikson, at Red State, breaks the news that we don’t get to repeal Socialism.
Upon examination of Senator Harry Reid’s amendment to the health care legislation, Senators discovered section 3403. That section changes the rules of the United States Senate.
To change the rules of the United States Senate, there must be sixty-seven votes.
Section 3403 of Senator Harry Reid’s amendment requires that “it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.” The good news is that this only applies to one section of the Obamacare legislation. The bad news is that it applies to regulations imposed on doctors and patients by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards a/k/a the Death Panels.
You can’t even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn’t “border on immoral”: It drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral.
Dana Milbank describes how partisan things got on the Senate floor.
At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon—nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation’s passage—Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. “What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight,” he said. “That’s what they ought to pray.”
It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads—but without his vote, Democrats wouldn’t have the 60 they needed. ...
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) had just delivered an overwrought jeremiad comparing the Republicans to Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution.
“Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear,” he said. “History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees.” Assuming the role of Old Testament prophet, Whitehouse promised a “day of judgment” and a “day of reckoning” for Republicans. ...
[Senator Coburn] who led the effort last week to stall proceedings by forcing an hours-long reading of legislative language, ... lobbed a grenade onto the floor when he said that, because of the legislation, Medicare recipients are “going to die sooner.”
On Saturday, Coburn likened the current situation to the period preceding the Civil War. “The crisis of confidence in this country is now at an apex that has not seen in over 150 years, and that lack of confidence undermines the ability of legitimate governance,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out there today who…will say, ‘I give up on my government,’ and rightly so.”
We’ll be blunt. The ‘health care reform’ legislation under consideration in the Senate is the most corrupt piece of legislation in our nation’s history. ...
Exhibit A is the outright bribe extracted by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Corn Huckster State) from Sen. Harry Reid. As a result of Nelson’s performance in his role of Hamlet in the health care deliberations, we will have two health care systems in this country; one for Nebraska and one for the other 49 states.
In its quixotic attempt to ensure everyone has health insurance, the Reid legislation greatly expands Medicaid eligibility. Because Medicaid is a program whose costs are split between the federal and state governments, this expansion in eligibility raise costs dramatically for states. States will be forced to either raise taxes or cut other services to accommodate the forced increase in Medicaid spending.
Unless that state is Nebraska.
And then quoting the bill:
The legislation would maintain and put into effect a number of procedures that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time. Under current law and under the proposal, payment rates for physicians’ services in Medicare would be reduced by about 21 percent in 2010 and then decline further in subsequent years.
(Hey, American Medical Association, how’s that endorsement of this bill working for you?)
Prominent liberal blogger Matt Yglesias is finding that American democracy isn’t working out his way these days, and announces that it’s time to change the rules.
The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable. ...
You can have a system in which a defeated minority still gets a share of governing authority and participates constructively in the victorious majority’s governing agenda, shaping policy around the margins in ways more to their liking. Or you can have a system in which a defeated minority rejects the majority’s governing agenda out of hand, seeks opening for attack, and hopes that failure on the part of the majority will bring them to power. But right now we have both simultaneously. It’s a system in which the minority benefits if the government fails, and the minority has the power to ensure failure. It’s insane, and it needs to be changed.
You can see just how badly they taught Civics at Dalton and at Harvard. Mr. Yglesias is clearly unaware that the basic role of the Senate as conceived by the framers was to obstruct the will of the majority and to prevent majorities tyrannizing over the minority.
I shall not scruple to add, that such an institution may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.
Aided by a dishonest and partisan media, which scrupulously avoided investigating the facts and which faithfully reported the democrat party line, clown comedian and ultra-liberal Al Franken finally successfully stole last year’s close race for the senate seat from Minnesota when the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to interfere with an accomplished crime and instead declared him the winner.
Mr. Franken trailed Mr. Coleman by 725 votes after the initial count on election night, and 215 after the first canvass. The Democrat’s strategy from the start was to manipulate the recount in a way that would discover votes that could add to his total. The Franken legal team swarmed the recount, aggressively demanding that votes that had been disqualified be added to his count, while others be denied for Mr. Coleman.
But the team’s real goldmine were absentee ballots, thousands of which the Franken team claimed had been mistakenly rejected. While Mr. Coleman’s lawyers demanded a uniform standard for how counties should re-evaluate these rejected ballots, the Franken team ginned up an additional 1,350 absentees from Franken-leaning counties. By the time this treasure hunt ended, Mr. Franken was 312 votes up, and Mr. Coleman was left to file legal briefs.
What Mr. Franken understood was that courts would later be loathe to overrule decisions made by the canvassing board, however arbitrary those decisions were. He was right. The three-judge panel overseeing the Coleman legal challenge, and the Supreme Court that reviewed the panel’s findings, in essence found that Mr. Coleman hadn’t demonstrated a willful or malicious attempt on behalf of officials to deny him the election. And so they refused to reopen what had become a forbidding tangle of irregularities. Mr. Coleman didn’t lose the election. He lost the fight to stop the state canvassing board from changing the vote-counting rules after the fact.
This is now the second time Republicans have been beaten in this kind of legal street fight. In 2004, Dino Rossi was ahead in the election-night count for Washington Governor against Democrat Christine Gregoire. Ms. Gregoire’s team demanded the right to rifle through a list of provisional votes that hadn’t been counted, setting off a hunt for “new” Gregoire votes. By the third recount, she’d discovered enough to win. This was the model for the Franken team.
Mr. Franken now goes to the Senate having effectively stolen an election.
As Chris Cillizza explains, the key to Franken’s successful election theft was: (1) being the first to bring in highly-paid talented legal big guns to manipulate a post-election ballot review process in his favor, and (2) media allies representing an artificially contrived and completely partisan recount as decisive and meaningful. Franken keeping his repulsive and excruciatingly vulgar personality under wraps for the duration helped a lot, too.
How did Franken manage to wind up on top? ...
Marc Elias, a Democratic election attorney with Perkins Coie, was on the ground in Minnesota within days of the near-tie on election day. Elias spearheaded a series of legal victories in the early days of the recount that effectively defined the universe of votes that were counted and led to Franken going from behind on election night to ahead when they recount ended. By the time Ben Ginsberg, the Republicans’ election lawyer par excellence, got deeply involved, it was already too late. ...
When the statewide recount ended, Franken led by 225 votes. ... it’s hard to overstate how important the fact that Franken was (seemingly- JDZ) ahead was to setting public perception regarding the legal fight that ensued. Coleman was forced to be the aggressor legally, claiming that all sorts of ballots had been illegally counted (and not counted) while, through it all, the fact that Franken led by 225 votes hung over the proceedings. Voters tend to lose interest in politics quickly—particularly after an election as nasty and long as this race was—and that sort of fatigue played right into Franken’s hands. ...
Franken’s problem throughout the race was, well, himself. ... When the race ended in a tie, Franken did something very smart; he stayed out of the spotlight. He was rarely seen or heard and when he did pop into public view it was during an occasional visit to Washington when he was huddling with potential colleagues and getting briefed on issues by potential staffers.
When, oh, when will the Republican Party learn to play politics professionally against thugs, thieves, and liars? Watching Norm Coleman get rolled was like watching the team from St. Fauntleroy’s Academy for Young Gentlemen take on the Bowery Boys Reformatory team on the football gridiron. No contest at all.
Congressional Republicans (1, 2) and democrats are raising serious questions about Barack Obama’s plans to release terrorist detainees from the US holding facility in Guantanamo Bay into the United States, pointing to already existing statutes barring entry to recipients of terrorist training and introducing further legislation to block the president’s plans.
Jennifer Rubin, at Commentary, thinks Obama has painted himself into a corner on this one, and is going to incur serious political costs whichever way he decides in the end to proceed.
So what does the president do now? To go back on his promise to close Guantanamo would mean incurring the wrath of not only the Left in the U.S., but of the fawning European leaders and public who praised his decision to shut the place down. And it would, of course, be a humiliating admission that his initial pronouncement — made even before Eric Holder visited Guantanamo — was ill-conceived. He can try to fudge the issue or delay, but ultimately he has to do one or the other: proceed to close Guantanamo and begin releasing the detainees, or admit error and adhere to the Bush policy of housing dangerous terrorists there. It is not “a false choice,” but a very real one. We’ll see which audience, American or European, he is willing to offend.