Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 21, 2010

ON LIFE SUPPORT -- BUT BREATHING.... On Tuesday night, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of the more influential progressives on the Hill, issued a surprisingly dour press statement, sounding defeatist and resigned to failure on health care reform. Frank's comments were Exhibit A that a narrow majority of Massachusetts's voters may have in fact killed the year-long effort to deal with the nation's dysfunctional health care system.

Yesterday, Frank told Brian Beutler that he was "upset" when he wrote the statement and now realizes he "overstated the pessimism." Most notably, Frank also signaled a willingness to support the Senate bill, with assurances that changes would be made through reconciliation.

"I'm easy. I'm strongly inclined to vote for the thing, even though I don't like the health care tax thing," Frank told me. "But you know, I was ready to vote for the bill when I had people on the left yelling at me not to vote for it. So you know I'll vote for any of it... to try and move the process along."

Frank was quick to qualify his remarks, though, noting that a vote from him would require promises from leadership and the White House that at least one controversial element of the legislation would be fixed in subsequent legislation. "I take it back...I would want assurances that we were going to amend the health care tax piece," Frank said.

This continues to be the most obvious resolution, though it's not even close to clear whether there are 218 votes in the House to get this done. Blue Dogs, the most conservative Dems, are, not surprisingly, opposed. So, too, are the most liberal Dems.

That said, if Frank is signaling his support for the pass-then-reconciliation strategy, some of the House Democratic leadership believe the idea has merit, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad is open to the idea, and unions are on board with the underlying approach, then it's at least a possibility.

As for the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the NYT reported, "Inside the White House, top aides to the president said Mr. Obama had made no decision on how to proceed, and insisted that his preference was still to win passage of a far-reaching health care measure, like the House and Senate bills, which would extend coverage to more than 30 million people by 2019."

Republicans, meanwhile, continue to express absolutely no interest in playing a constructive, problem-solving role. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ostensibly one of the "moderates" in the GOP caucus, urged the White House yesterday to completely scrap the year's worth of work and "start from scratch."

That's obviously not an option.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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Please everyone sign Alan Grayson's petition to the supreme court to stop the corporate takeover of our government, it can be found on Daily Kos.

Posted by: JS on January 21, 2010 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

"Mr. Obama had made no decision on how to proceed..." Starting with the transparency in government promise might be a good start, and ending the day by not increasing the fed debt another 1.8 trillion or about $40,000 per person. As for Frank, he may stand in the middle so long, that votors will run over his political career entirely.

Posted by: ahrcanum on January 21, 2010 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for gettng this out early, Steve. Now I can breathe again. A bird in hand is better than two in the bush; don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, etc.

Posted by: Keeping Track on January 21, 2010 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

The invasion of North Africa showed just how unprepared America was for war.

The invasion of Sicily, while successful in the end, showed how partisan bickering can be costly.

The invasion of Normandy- bold, daring, and with no guarantee of success-showed how a strong leader can surmount internal dissent and herd monumental egos towards a goal.

I like Ike. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 21, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

It would be much smarter IMHO to quickly pass a clean, simple 50+ Medicare buyin bill (the approach that should have been taken from the start) via reconciliation and then immediately pivot to doing a serious jobs bill- the issue that will REALLY kill the Democrats if they don't get moving on it.

This whole process went off the rails a long way back. Comprehensive "reform" without meaningful cost controls misses the main point of the exercise; and since REAL comprehensive reform is still politically impossible, let's provide very visible, easily explained help to a large number of people quickly via Medicare buyin.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 21, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Republican plan: delay, delay, delay ... reset, begin at the beginning ... delay, delay, delay

What is there to get about this?

Posted by: lou on January 21, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

The most disturbing thing about this whole mess is the lack of preparation the WH and Dem leadership exhibited yesterday. They knew this was coming for a week, but they didn't have a new strategy ready. They panicked.

This could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Did anyone really think that the House-Senate negotiations would change the Senate bill substantially? Doubtful, with Lieberman and Nelson holding it hostage. And yet the House couldn't just give up without pissing off the base. Those negotiations would have been long and ugly, further undermining everyone.

Now the House has an out. They've been presented with a fait accompli that they can blame on Coakley. They can pass the bill and move ahead. They just need to develop some testicular and/or ovarian fortitude.

Today is the most important day of Obama's presidency. He should have been ready to do this yesterday. He needs to regain control, or he will be marginalized.

Posted by: Tim H on January 21, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Yesterday, as I was reading reports of people calling in to Rep. Frank's offices (and, oddly, actually reaching him)only to have him tell them that he wouldn't vote for the Senate bill, and that he thought they would have to start over, I wrote him this email:

"Representative Frank,

"I'm certain that, in the wake of last night's disappointing Senate election, that you are reeling like so many in Congress over the direction of Health Care Reform.

"I am writing to urge you to support, and help rally support, behind affirming the Senate version of the Bill. It is not perfect-- as a progressive, I certainly wish that the Bill were closer to the House version-- but it is an enormous step in the right direction. It is a bill that will, quite literally, make a difference in the lives of millions. Its passage will also, I truly believe, help to bolster the chances for Democratic candidates to limit losses in the midterms later this year.

"I understand that, to many, this will seem counter-intuitive, but the Democrats were swept into power and given a mandate for, among other things, this very purpose. The American people, when they understand what is in the bill (rather than the caricature being portrayed by Republican opponents), will rally behind reform. I believe that the 80% support for Massachusetts' Health Care is proof-positive of this.

"The alternative is DEVASTATING electoral losses in November and, more critically, the loss of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make real change to a broken system. It's not the bill I would have chosen; I don't believe it's the bill you would have chosen. It is, however, the very best that circumstances have to offer.

"Again, please help pass the bill and then address fixing it through reconciliation."


I suspect that this was one of many such missives that made their way to him yesterday, and Rep. Frank laudably listened to reason. Hopefully enough others will too. Please, call your representative today!

Posted by: Shantyhag on January 21, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Keep hope alive... but don't kid yourselves: they don;t have the vites to pass the Senate Bill in the House. God knows if they'd even have the votes to re-pass the House bill. And "start from scratch" I'd bet, is one option that hasn't breathed it's last yet. I'd bet, mostly, on a smaller, more focused bill with some incremental changes, and not much that anyone will love, but no one will hate. The Senate Bill through the House is a nonstarter. And yesterday, it nonstarted. It will keep nonstarting until enough people get it to let it die.

And PS, I'm starting to agree with my best friend, who said to me, clearly, we need to keep antagonizing perfect, and then blame it on good. :)

Posted by: weboy on January 21, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, it's almost like you've never met the Republican party and have been in a cave the last year.

Posted by: Tom T. on January 21, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

"This could turn out to be a blessing in disguise" - Tim H

I hate those damned stealth blessings.

"Now the House has an out. They've been presented with a fait accompli that they can blame on Coakley. They can pass the bill and move ahead..."

Agreed. The house bill had some unsavory issues too. Pass the senate bill and fix thru reconciliation.

Posted by: Marko on January 21, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

My comment above was directed to this comment of weboy's:
"a smaller, more focused bill with some incremental changes, and not much that anyone will love, but no one will hate."

Posted by: Tom T. on January 21, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Tom T, I agree that Republican intransigence is the big problem but then: "Pass the senate bill and fix thru reconciliation." ...can't happen without some Republican buy-in either. "Fixing" the Senate bill requires... another bill. That bill, without some Senate Republicans to reach 60. And yes, I suspect that means you may have trouble getting anything at all, and healthcare reform may be dead overall; but I tend to think that a smaller bill, sweetened with, say, the tort reform for malpratice that some GOP members want, might do it. I'll bet they at least try.

Posted by: weboy on January 21, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Just want to echo Shantyhag -- reading similar coverage at TPM, I emailed my congressperson asking him to lead the House in adopting the Senate bill and am asking my friends to do the same. As TPM said, better to pass the bill and tweak it later than to do nothing and spend the upcoming election season whining about Republican obstructionism (while families continue to suffer without health care). Contact your Rep today! (Easy access to your congressperson through this site https://writerep.house.gov/ -- just click through to the USPS site if you don't know the last 4 digits of your zip code.) Thx!!

Posted by: RR on January 21, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

I don't disagree about the problems with fixing the existing bill, weboy, but I think you are way too sanguine about the GOP helping us on any new bill, even with tort reform. I don't have an answer, but I'd like us to honestly look at the problems with the various options.

The choices are quite stark: 1) the House passes the Senate bill and we take our (very poor) chances on improving it via additional legislation, 2) the House passes the Senate bill and we make small improvements through reconciliation, or 3) we ditch the bill and go for the limited things we can get through reconciliation. I really don't think passing a smaller package through the conventional route is an option. It will not get through the Senate.

Posted by: Tom T. on January 21, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

And you trust them?

Posted by: st John on January 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

It is unlikely that the Senate will be able to pass any piece of legislation the rest of the term that is not personally approved by Limbaugh, Gingrich, or Ailes.

Posted by: Tim H on January 21, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

"Fixing" the Senate bill requires... another bill. That bill, without some Senate Republicans to reach 60 - Weboy

Fixing thru reconciliation only require 50 votes in the senate (plus VP as tie-breaker if necessary).

Posted by: Marko on January 21, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

"2) the House passes the Senate bill and we make small improvements through reconciliation," - Tom T.

Yes, I'll take Door #2

Posted by: Marko on January 21, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Blue Dogs, the most conservative Dems, are, not surprisingly, opposed. So, too, are the most liberal Dems.

Yep, the only difference is a little thing called motive.

Posted by: Dale on January 21, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

The really amusing part about the House passing the bill as is, with vocal promises to amend it in reconciliation, would be to see Joe Lieberman's face when he realized that 1) it only had to be passed once in the Senate, and he couldn't take his vote back; and 2) he couldn't do anything to stop the liberals from fixing it to their own specs in reconciliation.

If the House liberals had any sense of humor at all, they'd be voting to ping pong the bill while declaring their intent to add a public option and Medicare buyin in reconciliation--just to see Lieberman eat the gun in his fuhrerbunker.

Posted by: Kevin Carson on January 21, 2010 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

As a contractor, I address some of these issues are a regular basis... thanks for making sense!

Posted by: Penis Enlargement Albany on December 17, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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