Friday, February 12, 2010

The Health Care Follies Continue

Oh, goody. The Dems have a trick for passing health care...
"In comments reported by Congress Daily, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top health care aide Wendell Primus admitted top Democrats have already decided on the strategy to pass the Senate's pro-abortion, government-run health care bill.

"Primus explained that the Senate will use the controversial reconciliation strategy that will have the House approve the Senate bill and both the House and Senate okaying changes to the bill that the Senate will sign off on by preventing Republicans from filibustering.

“'The trick in all of this is that the president would have to sign the Senate bill first, then the reconciliation bill second, and the reconciliation bill would trump the Senate bill,' Primus said at the National Health Policy Conference hosted by Academy Health and Health Affairs.

“'There's a certain skill, there's a trick, but I think we'll get it done,' he said."

The comments from Primus raise an obvious question: Since it is inconveible that Democratic congressional leaders are moving in this direction without the knowledge of the White House, why call a health care summit and challenge congressional Republicans to come with their best ideas when the plan is already in place to use legislative trickery to pass Obamacare?
I am thoroughly impressed by the Democrats' desire to commit mass electoral suicide on health care. It's one thing to lose a Senate election in Massachusetts in part because of the bad optics of health care; it's another thing entirely to acknowledge that you'll use a "legislative trick" to pass the same legislation the public opposes. And for the record, even if it's not a "trick", calling it one is asinine public relations. And it looks even worse when the President is trying to convene some sort of grand bipartisan summit to discuss health care reform.

Megan McArdle's been a voice of sanity on the health care bills, and I think she's spot-on with this analysis. More to the point, her statement here hits the nail on the head...
Asking Republicans to be part of a televised forum on health care reform is a clever move: put up or shut up. Nonetheless, I'd guess it probably fails. Republicans are saying what you'd expect them to: we won't engage in sham negotiations. If you want us to come to the table, shelve this monstrous and unpopular plan and let's start over.

...The problem is, the public doesn't get mad at you for obstructing things the public doesn't like.
Health care reform has been a problem in multiple ways for Democrats and the President, but there are three overriding problems with what they did:

1. First, the message sucked. The President never delivered a good closing argument, or a good elevator pitch, or even a useful executive summary. The supporters couldn't hang their hat on what this reform was intended to accomplish, because it was trying to accomplish too many things. There was no rallying cry for the public to get behind.

2. The process dominated. The legislative process is ugly. Just like most people wouldn't eat a hot dog if they watched it get made, they won't like laws if they watch them get made. So the Democrats tried to craft a bill with a bare minimum of transparency (to satisfy campaign promises) and an emphasis on getting the minimum votes necessary to pass the bill. This meant little in the way of real opportunity for bipartisan reform, and it effectively gave the opposition a foothold on the idea that the other side was ignoring them. At the same time, Obama failed to take the lead and put his political capital on the line for specific features of the bill, effectively delegating control to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, making them the public faces of the bill. Neither one is particularly popular like the President is/was, and they effectively dragged the President's most important agenda item down with them (and brought down the President's own approval rating to boot).

3. The substance just wasn't there to convince skeptical Americans. To get people to embrace wholesale change like what Obama sought with health care is difficult but not impossible. But the substance of the bills being debated aren't attractive to most Americans, particularly those who have insurance. That's part of the reason the message sucked, since even the best salesman has trouble selling a lousy product.

The new strategy of looking bipartisan isn't likely to change any of the above, and I think it's very late in the game to try and make it work. And if they do get it passed, Election Day may end up being worse than 1994 for Democrats.

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