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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Health Reform Back From Dead

There was a point yesterday when it sure looked like Scott Brown had managed to kill federal health care reform without setting foot in Washington. Senate Democrats were busily disclaiming any interest in further action on a potential House-Senate conference committee report before Brown could arrive to joyfully join a filibuster and impose the will of the minority. House Democrats were refusing to consider passage of the Senate bill (which could avoid the necessity of a conference committee report and another Senate vote) without iron-clad assurances of future action to change objectionable features (e.g., the “Cadillac tax” which unions hate, and language restricting abortion). Such assurances did not seem to be forthcoming from Senate Democrats. And no one knew where the White House was, though rumors abounded that the president had told a reporter it was time to go back to the drawing board and try to enact something less ambitious.
All this was happening as conservatives in effect snaked-danced through the streets hailing Brown’s victory as the largest political event since, maybe, World War II, and the effective end of the Obama presidency.
The general malaise among health-care-reform-minded progressives was probably best expressed by The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn, who has been an eternal optimist about prospects for eventually getting legislation done. He published a piece late yesterday bewailing the White House’s apparent drift, with the bitter title: “Where’s the Obama I voted for?”
As often happens, though, the panic subsided, and things look more hopeful today. Turns out the president’s comments were vague but resolute about pressing forward on health reform. Senate Democrats are not walking away from health reform, and House Democrats have stopped making angry comments about the impossibility of getting acceptable assurances from the Senate about future action in order to facilitate passage of the Senate bill. It still will be complicated to put together a “deal” that both progressives and moderates in both Houses can live with, but it seems to be sinking in that failure to enact anything, after so many Democrats have already cast votes for reform and made themselves targets for conservative attacks, is just not an acceptable outcome.
So the conservative exultation over “the death of ObamaCare” may be a bit premature. We’ll know soon enough.
UPDATE: Another big scare went though the progressive community today when Nancy Pelosi made remarks that were interepreted by some, most notably Josh Marshall, as “pulling the plug” on House action on health care reform. Josh later walked back this conclusion a bit, and there’s some sentiment behind the scenes in Washington that Pelosi is simply trying to convince Senate Democrats (and the White House) that they need to get serious about the “fix” part of the “pass-it-and-fix-it” formula for House passage of the Senate health reform bill. Meanwhile, the White House seems to be moving on to the more promising political ground of bank reform, perhaps hoping to eliminate the public glare on congressional health reform discussions.

One comment on “Health Reform Back From Dead

  1. George Ortega on

    That’s great, but have you heard of SCOTUS’ treasonous siding with corporations earlier today? If Citizens United v. FEC stands, our democracy is dead.


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