Did anyone think that getting healthcare reform done was going to be easy?
Yes, I know that Obama came into office with huge approval ratings - especially when compared with the dismally low approval ratings of his immediate predecessor. I know that Democrats have large majorities in the House and Senate. And still we read everyday stories like this one from Salon that practically write the obituary for meaningful healthcare reform.
Liberal pessimism seems to be peaking right at the moment when we need to come together and make the final push on behalf of this vitally important legislation. The Democrats’ big majorities are actually not as big as they seem because of the Republicans’ extreme obstinance and their continued abuse of the filibuster in the Senate. Remember that the Democrats’ “filibuster-proof” 60 votes in the Senate only works if you are counting that backstabbing little weasel Joe Lieberman and a healthy Ted Kennedy. And that is not even mentioning the concessions that would be needed to keep Blue Dogs like Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad and Blanche Lincoln on board.
But if we could get a straigh up-or-down vote it would be a snap to pass health reform. Thus we need to use the reconcilliation process that bypasses Senate rules and gets it done.
The whole big fight up until now has been to see whether or not Democrats will have to go that route. If enough Republicans could be coaxed to cross over - Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Dick Lugar, and so forth - to make up for Lieberman/Nelson/Kennedy, then all would be good.
But if not, then we will have to go forward with the alternative plan - which now appears to be likely -- Is The White House Ready To Ditch Republicans And Turn to Reconciliation?
But in the meantime, we’ve had all this handwringing from Liberals and Democrats bemoaning a Clinton-era loss that will lead to another 12 years of banishment to the political wilderness for the Party. Nonsense! Get a grip, people! Step back, take a deep breath and recognize that the administration could not just plow ahead with reconciliation without first giving the bipartisan approach a try. We needed the Republicans to demonstrate their obstinance before deciding to go the reconciliation route. Otherwise, the reform opponents would have used it to scare people into thinking that a secret plan was being pushed through without adequate review.
Things are not as bad as they seem. It was never going to be easy to get a good reform package passed. There is very little upside in it for Obama or for Democrats. Providing health coverage to a bunch of poor people who still won’t turn out to vote while upsetting lots of well-off people who always do vote is not the smartest thing to do politically. But it was the right thing to do morally and in the long-run it will make our country a better place to live and raise our families.