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Dealing With the Democrats

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Posted on Feb 24, 2010

By Ruth Marcus

The White House description of President Obama’s health care proposal as his “opening bid” raises the question: With whom is he bidding? The public dance is with Republicans, but this is hardly serious. The White House does not enter Thursday’s summit expecting Republicans to make a deal.

So the real target of presidential bidding is with his own party—specifically House Democrats. The White House hopes that Blair House will turn out to be the new Baltimore, a venue, like Obama’s meeting with the Republican caucus, where a nimble president debates the opposition and wins. Not with the other party but with the public, thus stiffening Democratic spines for the difficult legislative road ahead. 

In Monday’s blueprint, the president made the decision—certainly audacious and perhaps foolhardy—to press for the comprehensive, near-trillion-dollar package. Getting there would require a two-part solution. The Senate, using the majority-vote process of reconciliation, would tweak the measure along the lines suggested by the president. The House would pass both the tweaks and the underlying Senate bill.

The arithmetic of this approach is unforgiving. Even before the shock of losing the Massachusetts Senate seat, there was no margin for error in either house. This remains true, except the politics in both chambers have become that much harder.

First, the Senate. The House wants it to take the lead, for a change. But for parliamentary reasons, this is unlikely. No matter what the order, getting the measure through the Senate even under a majority-vote rule will be a challenge. Some Democrats are reluctant to take this divisive step. Assuming enough can be brought along, Republicans will still have the ability, even under reconciliation rules, to bring the Senate to a virtual standstill.

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That would be the easy part.

In the House, the only way to cobble together a majority will be to secure votes from moderate Democrats who balked at passing the bill the first time around. These are the lawmakers who are the most rattled by the Massachusetts vote—with good reason. For a Democratic House member in a swing district, the politics counsel against voting yes. “This is a career-ending vote,” one Democrat told me—and this was a lawmaker who voted for the original bill. 

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes—with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with its abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps even more.

There are a few liberal lawmakers who might be wooed back—Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich, for instance, voted against the first version—but not enough to make up the difference. So the fate of the measure rests with the conservative Democratic Blue Dogs. A few are retiring—including John Tanner and Bart Gordon of Tennessee—and might be persuaded to switch their votes. This would help, but likely not be enough.

Will other Democrats switch? The president’s blueprint is more moderate than the House measure but more expensive and less tough on cost control than the Senate version. According to one person present, at her meeting with House Democrats Monday night, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was bragging that 80 percent of the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans—a central cost control measure that is hated by House liberals—had been eliminated. Meanwhile, more and more Democratic senators are signing on to a letter urging that the public option be included as part of the Senate’s reconciliation package. None of this seems conducive to securing moderate votes.

Maybe the president can pull this off. My worry is that going for broke and failing will not leave time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care—not everything, but something significant—will have evaporated, once again.

Ruth Marcus’ e-mail address is marcusr(at symbol)washpost.com.

© 2010, Washington Post Writers Group


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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, March 2, 2010 at 5:47 pm Link to this comment

It looked to me like President Obama was leading really well, but the Republicans are doing everything they can to block whatever he is trying to do.

President Obama has gotten his feet wet in the presidency waters and I expect he will end up being a really good presidential swimmer for the populace in the long run.  Anyway, he is the populace’s only hope, the Republicans are no hope for the populace at all.

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By the worm, March 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm Link to this comment

Obama has not lead, and, when he has, it has been away from the public good
to corporate welfare.

Obama’s ‘reforms’ are variously considered a sham, trivial or an?
institutionalization of the current disastrous health care system (only with ?
more public subsidies to the insurance industry). 

The confusion and endless gyrations evident in the plan (try reading it) are the
result of trying to fit ‘reform of the system’ into the system’s current contorted,
inefficient and costly contours (in other words, the plan is not a ‘reform’, but
more pasting things on to a broken system).

Here’s what the people wanted when the Democrats started:

“A mere seven months ago (that would be around June 2009), The New York ?
Times/CBS poll found that 72% of Americans ‘supported a government-?
administered insurance plan—something like Medicare for those under 65—?
that would compete for customers with private insurers.’”

From then until now, Obama has:?

1.  Rejected single payer; ?

2.  Stiff-armed the government option; ?

3.  Mandated individuals and families pay premiums to private sector insurers; ?

4.  Assured billions in tax payer subsidies for private sector insurers; ?5. 
Stipulated actual health care service at 80 cents of every dollar, while ?insurers
can spend 20 cents of every premium dollar on lobbying, ‘sympathetic’ ?
candidates, CEO bonuses, ‘administration’, fighting claims for treatment and, ?
now we can add, participating on the new Federal ‘rate review’ Board.

The substance of the President’s proposal is the current costly, inefficient and ?
ineffective insurance system on Federal steroids.

If Obama wanted to cast himself as a leader of the Democratic, this was surely
his last chance to evidence Democratic principles and he did not.

Obama’s plan keeps the current system in place, while supplementing it with
taxpayers’ money in the form of mandated premium payments and Federal
‘subsidies’. 

Where Obama had a fight with principled Democrats, he was on the wrong side.
He was on the side of the corporations and against the middle class.

We mistook Obama for a leader, a champion of the middle class; we were
mistaken. We thought the Democratic ‘leadership’ would fight for the middle
class; we were wrong.

As one commentator put it, the Democrats now face an enthusiasm gap.
Certainly, because when we vote Democratic we get Republican policies. Where
are the Democrats? There are very very few. Not enough to help the middle
class. And more’s the pity for the party and for America.

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By ofersince72, February 27, 2010 at 12:15 am Link to this comment

most Americans , you say, are pathetic.
That is a pathetic statement.

You did forget my favorite though, baboon….

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By ofersince72, February 27, 2010 at 12:00 am Link to this comment

Well mrfreeze, guess you pegged me,,,

In the other countries you speak of they are
nationalized health care systems, arn’t they?

Do they mandate to the citizens to buy health ins
from private ins companies that also are the companies that have spent untold amounts in lobbying
and campaign contributions.???????????????

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 26, 2010 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment

Where is the actual information of all these mandates? 

How come people aren’t up in arms about auto insurance being mandated?

If the government provides for all those who can’t afford a mandate, there would be no problem, but I would have a difficult time on my retirement check of $2,300/month paying mandated insurance.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, February 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment

Ofersince72 - Quoting your question:

“if the government can mandate you to buy health insurance….it sets the president…they can make
you buy anything, why let them have this???????”

I don’t mean to offend; however you have provided the ultimate insight into the inner workings of most Americans: uneducated, myopic, insanely un-curious, off-track, politically and historically ignorant and just plain…well, pathetic.

Here’s why I’m being so critical: In most western nations that have national health care, they spend 1/2 of what we do BY MANDATING EVERYONE TO HAVE HEALTH CARE. That’s what makes the system work better than ours! Also, I don’t see any correlation between the mandating of health care and any other “rights” or “forced purchasing” of goods and services.

This is why Democrats will never be able to rule with the same simple power that Republicans command: They don’t use the “fear” factor. They don’t use the intellectual poverty of the American people against the Republicans. There is a lot of power in Rovian tactics of driving people apart base wedge issues. It’s what Republicans do.

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment

The Democrats have been trying to deal with the Republicans, but the Republicans couldn’t care less about health care for the populace.

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By markpkessinger, February 26, 2010 at 12:40 am Link to this comment

Ms. Marcus writes:

“My worry is that going for broke and failing will not leave time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan.”

So Ms. Marcus thinks the Administration shouldn’t fight too hard for the kind of plan it and 2/3 of the electorate really want (Plan A), lest in doing so they compromise their strategic position on Plan B, which isn’t really what anybody wants.  In other words, they should undercut the primary objective in order to insure they can achieve a fall back?

Ms. Marcus, I think you’ve got it exactly backwards.  The people did not vote for Democrats in the kinds of numbers they did in the last election merely to watch them roll over for Republicans.  If the President would actually take a real political risk by laying out clearly what he wants, and where he is willing to draw lines in the sand, and then mount a serious fight for it, he, and Democrats in general, might actually regain some respect with voters—independents and progressives alike—regardless of the outcome.  But to fail to strive for excellence so as to preserve the ability to attain mediocrity will drive home for many what they already suspect, i.e., that Democrats are too politically incompetent to accomplish anything and are thus unable to govern.

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By ofersince72, February 25, 2010 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment

whatever….

think about this…

if the government can mandate you to buy health insurance….it sets the presedent…they can make
you buy anything…

why let them have this???????
its a joke again…....we are the joke…

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 25, 2010 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

For certain God is NOT the one who got us into this mess, unless you think people are gods.

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By ofersince72, February 25, 2010 at 12:03 am Link to this comment

Please keep god out of this,
i believe he the one got us into this mess

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment

We can.  But we have to quit warring, which isn’t profitable for the Military Industrial Complex. 

Cindy Sheehan is going to set up camp across the street from the White House and has requested for the populace to PLEASE CALL THE PRESIDENT: 202-456-1111 OR WRITE HIM AT:

WHITE HOUSE,
1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVE, NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20050

TO BE IN SOLIDARITY WITH CAMP OUT NOW AND THIS DEMAND:

http://cindysheehanssoapbox.blogspot.com/2010/02/peace-camp-demands-that-president-obama.html

War is too costly for our nation and the majority of the people in the nation, the populace, get nothing but to die for jingoism.

Cindy Sheehan has recently returned from interviewing Hugo Chavez in Venezeula.  She said, “The U.S. is placing troops on bases in Columbia ostensibly to fight “drugs.” U.S. drones and other aircraft have been spotted flying over Venezuelan airspace and the demonization of Chavez and Venezuela is escalating. There are always “two sides” to a story and our corporately controlled mainstream propaganda media rarely even reports one side accurately.” So Cindy Sheehan should have a report from South America’s Venezuela before long.

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By balkas, February 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm Link to this comment

moneyed,
There is no religions- only cults and their enormous vitiating effects on all societies.
So, not to point this out wld amount to lying. And why can u talk ab religion snideway by telling other people they can’t discuss cults and their effects on society.

U are not only talking ‘religion’, u are defending it which is even worse than talking ab it.
Ur behavior goes by the name of tu quo que attitude: criticing others of doing what the criticiser self does.
The sole difference being that u defend what i call cults and u defend what u choose to call religion.

Waky-waky. This is the most common and most ancient artifice used in discourse.
This is like a woman who told her hubby sharply not to talk ab politics but did not espy that she just by saying that had engaged in politics.

In add’n, said a wise P: to know how criticize is ok; but it is a lot better to build. So build-create: enlighten us why any topic shld be banned from study of what ail us? tnx

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By http://MoneyedPoliticians.net, February 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Yea, you’re right. I’m outta here. You guys have your little discussion.

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By http://MoneyedPoliticians.net, February 24, 2010 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

John Ellis and balkas… please get off the religion kick. This is a serious economy issue.

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 24, 2010 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

In dealing with the Democrats, Former President, Bill Clinton said last Tuesday that Democrats have won the following legislative accomplishments despite the Republican Party’s consistent obstructionism and complete support for an anti-reform special interest agenda:

** Democrats voted to pass an economic stimulus package that the independent Congressional Budget Office says created new jobs and boosted the economy, and won the largest increase in college aid in history.

** House Democrats won comprehensive financial reform to rein in Wall Street and protect consumers, and also

** House Democrats passed a health care reform plan that lowers costs, expands access and protects consumers from delayed or denied coverage.

Report this
MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 24, 2010 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

In dealing with the Democrats, Former President Bill Clinton said last Tuesday that Democrats have won the following legislative accomplishments despite the Republican Party’s consistent obstructionism and complete support for an anti-reform special interest agenda:

** Democrats voted to pass an economic stimulus package that the independent Congressional Budget Office says created new jobs and boosted the economy, and won the largest increase in college aid in history.

** House Democrats won comprehensive financial reform to rein in Wall Street and protect consumers, and also

** House Democrats passed a health care reform plan that lowers costs, expands access and protects consumers from delayed or denied coverage.

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By Realist, February 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Significant? Regarding health care reform? This crap Obama’s pushing? You had better stop ordering psilocybin mushrooms on your pizzas, Marcus! You are losing contact with the home planet!

The only significant change being brought forward with the passage of this insurance company welfare program is that even more people will be paying for coverage they aren’t going to get. As much as I don’t like siding with the Republicans, on this bill I will. It needs to die, and if that means the medical system (which I happen to need due to chronic health issues) goes with it, oh well. Maybe then we can get real reform once the posers in both parties are swept away in the ensuing public outrage.

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

Conservative Republican Judge Alito’s Supreme Court is of the opinion corporations are the same as individual people.  This Bill, if passed, makes it possible for people from the populace to run, but wouldn’t they be out monied by the corporations?

My state is backward, the majority always vote the corporate conservative Republicans into office, so all I have to ask is Republicans, who do not give a flip about the populace having a fair election, all I have ever seen a Republican offer the populace is empty rhetoric, but they always do it with charm and finesse.

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By balkas, February 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

john ellis, yes?  There is no god! There are, tho, mad priests!
I used “God is dead” for first time to kind of make it more vivid and maddening.

The word “god” does exist. The symbol, tho, stands for some feelings inside the skin of a person.
The trouble arises solely from the fact that pious people project their fellings onto outside world; i.,e., evaluate what goes inside their skins only, as existing outside their skins.
And the hell breaks out!tnx

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By http://MoneyedPoliticians.net, February 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

>>> “Are the laws made by the populace for the populace, or by the wealthy capitalists for the wealthy capitalists?”

When the wealthy fund the elections, the laws are written to their benefit. Only public funding of campaigns will change that. Get your congressmen to sign on to this bill:
http://www.fairelectionsnow.org/more/summary

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

I agree with a civil society living by laws, but it gets down to who’s laws are the populace living by?  Are the laws made by the populace for the populace, or by the wealthy capitalists for the wealthy capitalists?

Today all laws are made by the wealthy corporate capitalists for the wealthy corporate capitalists.  All laws of benefit to the populace have been knocked down.  When the government goes along with this type of laws being knocked down in favor of wealthy capitalists, it is oppression and tyranny of the populace.

The populace is slow to rise up against oppression and tyranny, but when they do, it is a terrible thing, because the populace stampeded en masse is uncontrollable.

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By Vic Anderson, February 24, 2010 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why are we STILL debating what these dwarfs are doing on health “Care” DEFORM?
It’s single-payer or Shut UP!

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By balkas, February 24, 2010 at 9:09 am Link to this comment

MSM collumnists do not see necessity to call on supreme court to give a ruling on the health care.
And the ruling given wld be: it is or isn’t a human right to receive needed medical care!

Of course, god is dead! But must also constitution be dead also? So what’s with the constitution? Is there any life or inteligence out there?

Why is the health care being decided by the people, who, selves, proclaim: We are governed by laws [and not men]? Go figure. tnx

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By http://MoneyedPoliticians.net, February 24, 2010 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

Of course. With $46 million equally spread between the D’s and R’s the insurance industry took no chances.

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By RdV, February 24, 2010 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

Face it. The progressives in the house are also hesitant to capitulate to this corporate give-away because they know that the public hates it and knows it a fraud.

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 24, 2010 at 7:17 am Link to this comment

Conservative Republicans only have the dregs of trickle down medical to offer the populace, which is in their idealogy, good enough for the populace; so they die, big deal, they were insignificant anyway, which is a really ungodly ideology for jingoistic politicians purporting to love God and country.

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MarthaA's avatar

By MarthaA, February 24, 2010 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

The populace dance is never with autocratic conservative Right-Wing Republicans.  Conservative Right-Wing Republicans do not care about benefit for the populace.  As far as Conservative Right-Wing Republicans are concerned, throw the old populace away, let the sick and weak populace die, there are plenty enough healthy populace for our needs, if one breaks, get another, it isn’t our problem.  And the Conservative Right-Wing GOP rules the Republican Party, everything else is wishful thinking.

If the progressive Left-Wing’s Democratic Party is going to actually do anything liberal for the benefit of the populace, it will have to be done by the progressive Left-Wing’s Democrats alone,  because corporations have seduced so many Democrats into the conservative camp, and it is these conservatives voting against populace benefit that need to be Primaried out of the Democratic Party at the earliest convenience.

Hopefully, the bill will get through the Congress and the populace will get actual help with their medical, instead of more oppression and tyranny to have to deal with.

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thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, February 24, 2010 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

I have a question: Why does Truthdig post this babbling Washington newspeak, and claim to be digging beneath the headlines?
Maybe, with the help of well placed ads, Truthdig can pull their charade off.

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