As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Just Like The Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution

This passed without comment or a follow-up on yesterday's Fox News Sunday:

Obama, though, has shown some willingness to budge on the inclusion of a government-run insurance plan. But Republicans like Alexander are expressing concern that Democrats will ultimately throw up their hands in the effort to seek a bipartisan compromise and tap their majorities.

"Thumbing their nose at the American people by ramming through a partisan bill would be the same thing as going to war without asking Congress' permission," he said. "You might technically be able to do it, but you'd pay a terrible price in the next election."

Trying to establish a program of quality and affordable health insurance for everyone is like starting a war.

Furthermore, getting 51 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House for a bill establishing quality and affordable health insurance for everyone is like ignoring Congress and starting a war.

I want to know when in American history has the process by which a bill passed been the basis for any voter backlash. Seems to me that the Republicans gained seats after pushing through a war authorization for Iraq in 2002. Not to mention their tax cuts, using budget reconciliation. And they won seats in 2004 despite using reconciliation for the 2003 tax cuts. There is not a voter alive who wouldn't have already voted against a member of Congress willing to vote against him or her simply because of process. James Surowiecki gives another example:

Set aside the philosophical point that requiring bills to get sixty votes in the Senate before they become law contradicts the logic of majority rule. Even in straight political terms, where is the evidence that ordinary voters remember how laws were passed and reward or punish politicians based on that? On the contrary, voters judge politicians (to the extent that they make rational decisions) based on whether the laws they passed worked or not. In my recent interview with Barney Frank, he made this point with reference to the 2003 expansion of Medicare to include prescription drugs. That bill passed the House of Representatives by one vote, and only passed because the Republican leadership kept the vote open for hours so that they could strong-arm members into supporting it. But, as Frank said, voters today aren’t asking for its repeal or complaining about the way the benefit was enacted, because—for all of its flaws, like the infamous “doughnut hole”—on the whole they’re reasonably happy with the way the plan has worked. The reality is that if the Administration passes significant health-care reform that works—that is, it regulates bad behavior by the insurance companies, makes insurance portable, makes it possible for individuals to buy insurance at reasonable rates, and reduces (as a result) the number of the uninsured—American voters will not care that it passed via reconciliation. Political victory on this issue isn’t going to be determined by how the law gets enacted. It’ll be determined by what happens once it is enacted.

The problem, of course, is that the reform plan out of Max Baucus' Senate Finance Committee doesn't look very effective. And if that's the final plan, the public will be a harsh judge.

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