Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 21, 2011

HEALTH CARE STRATEGERY.... The House Republicans' vote this week on repealing the entirety of the Affordable Care Act was obviously symbolic. No one, not even House Republicans themselves, expects the repeal bill to go anywhere.

But the House bill won't just disappear immediately, and the symbolic gesture might turn out to be pretty interesting after all.

Senate Democratic leaders have said they have no intention of wasting time on the House-passed measure, but the Senate Republican minority intends to force the issue. MSNBC reported yesterday that Mitch McConnell "assured" supporters that the chamber would take up the repeal bill, and has procedural options available to force a vote.

Kevin Drum had a creative take yesterday, arguing that Senate Dems' instincts may be backwards -- don't ignore the House bill, embrace it and make the most of it.

They should bring the House bill up for a vote quickly, let Republicans speechify about it for a bit, and then vote it down, 53-47. End of story, time to move on.

But wait! With Republicans in control of the House, it's not like the Senate can really get much done anyway. So what's the harm in wasting a bit of time and making this a knock-down-drag-out fight? After all, the House leadership got a nice, clean repeal vote by bringing up the bill under a closed rule and allowing no potentially embarrassing amendments and virtually no debate. In the Senate, by contrast, Democrats control things, and they can bring up all the amendments they want. So maybe they should play along, hold hearings, and force Republicans to vote on, say, an amendment to the repeal bill that would keep the preexisting condition ban in place. And another one that would keep the donut hole fix in place. Etc. etc.

Jonathan Bernstein, who had a generally positive take on this, noted some of the risks of the amendment strategy, and Senate Dems would be wise to consider them.

That said, as of this morning, it appears there's some fluidity to the Democratic strategy in the Senate. Whereas the plan earlier in the week was to simply ignore the House Republicans' repeal bill, there's apparently a fair amount of interest in pursuing a plan very similar to what Kevin wrote about yesterday.

A top Democratic aide in the Senate told Brian Beutler, "Senior staff are giving serious consideration to the strategy of forcing Republicans to take tough votes on extremely popular elements of the health care law, including the doughnut hole provision, as well as pre-existing conditions."

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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If the Senate Repubs want an 'up or down' vote, then why the HELL don't Dems press the same issue on all of Obama's nominees? Perfect opportunity to do just that. Vote up or down on them FIRST, then we'll give you an up or down on the health care bill. SIMPLE!

Posted by: es on January 21, 2011 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

While I support the notion of a clean vote in the Senate, I think Democrats are overly optimistic if they think it would be an automatic party line vote against the bill. I can easily see Sens. Manchin (W.VA.), Landrieu (LA) and Nelson (NE) voting with the Republicans, forcing VP Biden to break the tie, but giving Republicans a moral victory. Furthermore, if some other Democrat from a Red state could be persuaded to vote for the repeal, Biden's vote would be irrelevant. In short, I think the Democratic leadership should count their votes very carefully before actually committing to voting on this bill.

Posted by: dht on January 21, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats don't know how to play politics.

While Republicans play politics like it's Risk, the Democrats play like it's checkers.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 21, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Amen to that. The dems could lose that vote, forcing Obama to veto it.

Posted by: wordtypist on January 21, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with dht. The Democrats in the Senate have shown zero party discipline. Nelson, Landrieu and Manchien refuse to learn from Ike Skelton and are convinced that their best chance to stay in the Senate is to hope nobody in their home states notices they aren't officially Republicans.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 21, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Lieberman would be glad to vote against repeal, provided they strip out the pre-existing condition language and Obama agrees to bomb Tehran.

Harry Reid will go on the talk shows to announce that the pre-existing condition language is non-negotiable.

Unnamed White House sources will report that the White House would be willing to negotiate on the pre-existing condition language and that while the President is strongly opposed to bombing Tehran, his first priority is to preserve health care for all Americans.

Three days later, Lieberman and the White House will agree to strip the language, bomb Tehran, and invade a small middle-eastern nation to be named later.

Steve will then tell us that this was really not such a bad deal and it's hard to see what the White House could have done differently.

Posted by: somethingblue on January 21, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Up down vote on all nominees then vote on this stupid bill.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on January 21, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Where do we stand on filibuster reform?

Posted by: andrew on January 21, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Up down vote on all nominees then vote on this stupid bill."

Agreed. Vote on all of the nominees then simply vote this down. they shouldn't play games. that's when something always goes wrong. the Republicans are playing a lot games and making themselves look ridiculous in the process. Simply vote this thing down and make them look foolish in the process. Then let them have a tantrum and shut the govermenent down.

Posted by: SaintZak on January 21, 2011 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Can I say that Kevin Drum has the worst political instincts on the planet?

Let me get this straight. ACA has things that are popular and unpopular. The GOP is prepared to vote up or down on the entire bill, stripping away the popular provisions.

But Kevin Drum wants Democrats to bring up a repeal bill that would preserve all the popular stuff and strip away all the unpopular stuff...and then vote against that? Or is he saying that Senate Democrats should vote for repeal? WTF? This proposal might be the single stupidest political idea that I have ever come from a Democrat.

Let me agree with "es", above, who has a brain. If GOP Senators want an up or down vote, create a laundry list of other items that get an up-or-down vote.

Posted by: square1 on January 21, 2011 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Strikes me as naive to think that this could be rehashed without the "mainstream media" reporting that Dems agree the bill needs to be largely repealed. The details are as irrelevant as John Boehner's skin color, but what people remember generally is quite superficial.

Posted by: Danp on January 21, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Look, we already have all the footage we need of Republicans voing "no" to end the insurance company scam of "pre-existing conditions," no to young adults staying on their parents' health insurance, "no" to being protected against being dropped from your insurance - my take is it would be a monumental waste of time to recreate and re-litigate those votes. Let's move on. Because if there's one thing Republicans are good at, it's wasting time. Dems don't need to join them in doing so.

Posted by: June on January 21, 2011 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

The senate dems should include a provision that would eliminate the congressional healthcare plan. Then see the Republicans twist themselves in knots when they realize their vote would affect them personally.

Posted by: linus bern on January 21, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I say if you must amend, amend big. The Democrats should allow votes on an amendment which redefines repeal as repeal only of the individual mandate (Bernie Sanders can submit the amendment if no Republican is willing).

I'm sure Republicans would love a chance to vote on a bill to repeal the individual mandate. It is terribly unpopular and was absolutely totally demanded by AHIP which so generously funded Republican candidates.

I'm sure Republicans would love it for their corporate backers to understand that their desire for showboating is more important than the interests of their financiers.

Hell I wouldn't be surprised if Republicans ended up filibustering the amended repeal just the individual mandate bill.

It's just plain old 11 dimensional chess (the orignal example). They can't convincingly accuse Obama of flip flopping if he says he would sign a bill to repeal the mandate -- he argued against it a zillion times in 2008.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on January 21, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrat position of holding back has produced mixed results. 2012 hopes rest on getting the young/progressive voters to turn out again. This means forcing the Repugs to defend/explain their positions, and Dems clearly and proudly explaining their alternatives.

Posted by: Fitz Tobetied on January 22, 2011 at 5:25 AM | PERMALINK

I am agree with you. This proposal might be the single stupidest political idea that I have ever come from a Democrat.God bless you. Thanks;)

Posted by: Nathan Rider on January 22, 2011 at 7:12 AM | PERMALINK



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