Obama may be setting a new historic standards for Presidential ‘exceptionalism’, but it may not be the type he wanted.
So here is how I see it. Obama on Monday put out a new health care reform plan…his own, supposedly. After holding our breath for a year, we see a bill that doesn’t show much.
The bill looks almost identical to the Senate bill that was passed in December. Sure, couple key points are missing (e.g. the Cornhusker kickback), but most of it is intact, including kickbacks to Louisiana and Florida for Sens. Landrieu and Nelson to sign on. And even funnier…the description of the bill is so bare, the CBO has said they cannot score it with more facts. This is quite humorous, considering Democrats have stated Republicans have not presented detailed bills, yet at least three Republican bills HAVE been scored by the CBO since last year.
So what exactly is the strategy here?
I think Mark Halperin of ABC said it best: “If there is a White House strategy, I have not seen it yet.”
There is serious doubt whether the bill can pass the Senate with 50 votes, or even the House, where it passed with a 3 vote majority several months ago.
Couple problems exist. The original House health care bill passed last November by a 220 to 215 margin. But supporters have lost four votes since then. Democrat Rep. Robert Wexler has left the House, and Rep. Neil Abercrombie is expected to leave this week. Rep. John Murtha died, and Republican Rep. Joseph Cao, the only GOP lawmaker to vote for the bill, now says he will vote against the measure.
The second problem will arise with the issue of abortion. The House, ironically, had very strict limits on funding for abortions. The Senate did not accept such restrictions, and either has Obama. Bart Stupak leads the pro-life forces in the Democrat House, and he says he has at least 15 votes that would defect without the Stupak Amendment.
How they resolve this hurdle is beyond me. If you take everything into consideration, the Democrats have 200-205 ‘Yes’ votes, and need at least a dozen more to pass the House. They either have to make the bill much smaller or further restrict abortion funding, and both of those alternatives will make it harder to get 51 votes in the Senate.
But as I have stated before, the real question is, why pivot back to health care ? There are two answers, and neither are very fulfilling. One, they feel this is their best political move; that seems absurd after the Scott Brown victory. The second possibility is that Obama is the idealogue that many on the right portrayed him as during the Presidential campaign, and simply wants to pass this regardless of the political repercussions. The second reason is seemingly more and more plausible as time goes on.
This was a President who spent the bulk of his State of the Union address not talking about health care, but talking about jobs. Now, we are back to health care, which has not served this administration or the Democrat Party well. The Blue Dog Democrats are very concerned about this shift backwards:
“I was actually surprised that they’re pushing it again. The most important thing is jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. We need to focus on jobs,” said Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina Democrat and a leader of the 54-member Blue Dog coalition of conservative Democrats.
Shuler, speaking to The Daily Caller on his way out of a meeting of the Democratic caucus on Monday evening at the Capitol, expressed the sentiment that is increasingly common in Washington, the reason so many are scratching their heads at Obama’s insistence on trying to pass a catch-all piece of legislation.
“I don’t think a comprehensive bill can pass,” he said.
And Shuler speaks generally for 40 or so House members; a block, mind you, that is the most susceptible to attacks in November.
But his opinion is not unique to moderates:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said comprehensive reform would be best but it’s not all or nothing.
“We may not be able to do all. I hope we can do all, a comprehensive piece of legislation that will provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans,” Hoyer said at his weekly media briefing. “But having said that, if we can’t, then you know me — if you can’t do a whole, doing part is also good. I mean there are a number of things I think we can agree on.”
The Obamacare initiative, if it fails, will lie at Obama’s feet as a prime example of this President’s naivete. He, to this day, believes his personal likability and oratory skills can get this major bill passed. This wasn’t true at the height of his popularity, and surely is not true today. Ultimately, it is two things that will bring this bill to failure: Obama’s inability to lead his own party and marshal votes for the bill, and his complete lack of being a bipartisan president. Ironic for a man that centered his entire campaign along those lines.