Daily Archives: January 20, 2010
That didn’t take long. After essentially ignoring Senate Republicans for a year (well except when they thought they could pick one or two off to help them make something appear “bi-partisan”), Democrats are now ready to lecture Republicans about their new “responsibility”. In a talking points memo issued to Democratic Senators today, they lay out their argument. The memo is entitled:
MASSACHUSETTS ELECTION MEANS THAT SENATE REPUBLICANS HAVE MORE RESPONSIBILITY TO GOVERN, NOT OBSTRUCT
We can literally spend the entire post on just the title. Contained in that sentence is the premise they hope they can sell to the Republicans and thereby lessen the impact of losing their supermajority.
But let’s be real – the election of Brown imposes no such obligation or responsibility on minority Republicans in the Senate anymore than it did on the Democrats when they were in the minority there. What the election of Brown does is make it hard for the Democrats to “govern” in the manner they’d prefer (unilaterally), so they’d like to lay this “responsibility” premise on the Republicans while they’re a bit euphoric over the win last night and might readily agree to that role.
Instead it is the role and responsibility of the GOP to do whatever they think is necessary to block bad legislation that unnecessarily increases the size, scope and cost of government. That’s what Brown promised to do and that’s why he’s going to the Senate. If the Democrats prefer to characterize that as “obstruction” then so be it. Time to grow a thick skin for once in your lives. And a spine wouldn’t hurt either.
During this last year, the Republicans haven’t had the power to “obstruct” anything and the Democrats know it. Now Republicans do. The fact that the Democrats are left sitting in the legislative ruins of their own making is no skin off the GOP’s nose. They had their chance and they blew it. If the GOP isn’t completely deaf, what they heard last night with the election of Brown was the people don’t want what the Democrats are selling.
So what should happen? The GOP should reject that premise outright and upfront and they should adopt one that is the polar opposite of that which Democrats are trying to push in their talking point memo.
Specifically: The GOP has the responsibility to obstruct/block/say “no” to the Democratic agenda as they have determined that agenda unnecessarily increases the size, scope and cost of government.
So who are you going to listen too, Republicans? The people or the Democrats?
Yup – That’s test question number one and it’s not multiple choice.
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Few will disagree that Scott Brown’s solid victory last night was meant to send an important message to Washington. Sure, there will be some whistling past the graveyard, but for the most part the political punditry and policy-makers will understand that something needs to change, and fast. Like dog whistles and Irish brogues, however, not everyone will hear the same thing.
It will not escape those who are truly paying attention that the Senate health care bill currently residing in the House was a huge catalyst behind Brown’s come-from-nowhere win. Brown’s potential cloture-busting vote looms large in a debate where Washington elites have tuned out those whom they mean to rule. It looms so large, and its power to lure slightly more than half the registered voters to the polls on a snowy day for a special election with nothing else on the ballot sends such a strong statement, that even Barney Frank seemed to get the message:
I have two reactions to the election in Massachusetts. One, I am disappointed. Two, I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in Congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results. If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate health care bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate. I am hopeful that some Republican Senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform because I do not think that the country would be well-served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the Senate rule which means that 59 votes are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of the process.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb said much the same thing last night:
In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.
Yet, somehow, even while recognizing that Democrats playing a legislative game of keepaway with the bill before the House (that was drafted behind closed doors, it should be noted) will only serve to undermine public confidence in the law (and Congress), progressives like Jane Hamsher still think that’s what’s called for now:
In the wake of Martha Coakley’s defeat, both Representative Barney Frank and Senator Jim Webb have said that jamming a health care bill through before Scott Brown can be seated is not the right thing to do.
They’re right. Health care legislation would be viewed — with some justification — as illegitimate.
But many on the Hill tonight are saying that the Massachusetts defeat also means that health care reform is dead, fearful that what happened to Martha Coakley will happen to them, too, in 2010.
That’s about as feasible as Wile E. Coyote trying to turn around and run back across the bridge that is crumbling behind him. There’s only one way to go.
The non-budgetary “fixes” like banning the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions have already passed the Senate. A public option — or an expansion of Medicare — can be added through reconciliation, which takes 51 votes. The Republicans certainly had no fear of using reconciliation when George Bush was in office. And the Democrats are going to need to do so in order to make good on their promise to fix the excise tax to benefit of the middle class, which will cost roughly $60 billion. But their options for doing that are limited by the process itself: they can pay for it by the savings from a government program like a public option or an expansion of Medicare. Or, they can piss everyone off and raise taxes.
That looks to be where Gerald Nadler and Anthony Weiner are headed tonight. They indicate that “the only way they could sign on to the Senate bill is if it was accompanied immediately, or even preceded by, a separate bill, making a number of major preemptive changes to what they regard as an inferior package,” per Brian Beutler.
It’s called sidecar reconciliation. And the 65 members of the House who have pledged to vote against any bill that does not have a public option should be looking into it seriously tonight.
Got that? Passing a bill that circumvents Brown’s vote will be viewed “with some justification” as illegitimate, so let’s go ahead and do just that! Do these people even listen to themselves? Using the reconciliation process (“sidecar” or otherwise) to shove health care legislation down Americans’ throats simply eschews the very legislative process that Barney Frank and Jim Webb cited as the reason to forgo further action on health care until Brown is seated. Yet, Hamsher and her cohorts advocate for legislative legerdemain anyway. Cognitive dissonance in action.
The reason, of course, is that passing health care legislation is such a fundamental issue for progressives that they have thrown all sense (such as was possessed) to the wind. It has nothing to do with what people want, but instead with what progressives want people to want. Apparently it doesn’t even matter that the rosy economic projections upon which these health care bills are based have little to no basis in reality. I guess, since the ultimate goal is a utopian fantasy, employing imaginary thinking is the only way to get there.
If nothing else, the reaction of progressives to the Massachusetts race reveals how dangerous they are when wielding power. Inconvenient facts are dismissed, and constituents are ignored, because what the progressive lacks in having any grasp of reality is more than made up for by resounding confidence and self-righteousness. Fortunately for us, the electorate does not appear to be willing to indulge their fantasies anymore.
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As Democrats survey the aftermath of a devastating defeat in yesterday’s Senate race in of all places, Democrat friendly Massachusetts, they have to be wondering how safe their own seats are. Even Barbara Boxer, whose polls have shown weakness, has to be a little concerned. If you can’t hold on to a Senate seat in a state where you outnumber the opposition 3.5 to 1, what seat is safe? Couple that with the fact that their super-majority in the Senate is gone and their legislative agenda in jeopardy, and they have a fine mess on their hands.
So that brings us to the broader implication of the Scott Brown victory yesterday. Does it mean Democrats will back off, heed the message and either kill or drastically reduce the health care bill? Or does it mean they plan on doubling down, pushing that monstrosity through as quickly as possible and hope to have the time to repair the damage before the midterms? Because that’s the choice they’re going to have to make and make soon.
If you listened to Nancy Pelosi yesterday, indications are they plan on doubling down. She’s quoted as saying that no matter what happens with Scott Brown, she plans on seeing health care passed. And, of course, Harry Reid – trailing badly in the polls in his home state – is of a similar mind.
The question is, how? There are several means of accomplishing the task. One is to pass the Senate version unchanged. That would only require a majority in the House and the bill can be sent to the President for signature. However, the Progressive caucus along the the Democratic pro-life wing aren’t at all keen on the idea and they carry enough votes to kill it.
That brings us to another method which seems to at least be the preferred method of the Olbermans, Matthews and Maddows of the world – reconciliation. It requires only simple majorities to pass legislation. But because it is aimed at budgetary legislation, it will mean a pared down health care bill that Democrats can ram through and at least have something to show for it. The question is would that be enough and, will it save them in November. The answer to both questions are probably “no”. However they may be left with little choice but to resort to this method.
And that’s because that last method is a compromise bill (what they’ve been working behind closed doors to craft) which will most likely please no one on the Democratic side (Republicans have lined up solidly against it already since they were shut out of the process) and they’re now facing a fight in the Senate they’re likely to lose (word is Joe Lieberman is again iffy on the bill).
Fun times in DC. But at least it’s a game again with the minority should be armed enough to stop the most outrageous of the liberal agenda. I’m not quit sure how the health care fiasco will play out – hopefully if not dead, it is at least a drastically reduced bill that can be repealed in the future prior to going to going into effect – but I’d say cap-and-trade is in serious trouble if not dead, and immigration reform is going to require Democrats to at least approach Republicans to pass anything meaningful.
Or to put it succinctly – the Brown win brought the blessing of divided government again. It’s by a very slim margin, but it is there again. And that is the model we should always strive to have at a federal level.
Republicans stand to pick up significant gains in November of this year. You can only hope that they’ve learned a valuable lesson from this election as well. The people want smaller and less intrusive government. They’ve once again begun turning to the Republicans to see that wish enabled. The question is will the message be heeded or will Republicans again ignore it as they did previously when in power and end up again handing it back to the Democrats?
We shall see, won’t we?
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