Patterico's Pontifications


Alphonse, Gaston & Obamacare

Filed under: General — Karl @ 9:35 am

[Posted by Karl]

TNR’s Jonathan Chait gets it about half-right today:

Paul Krugman’s column today has some good analysis of the House Blue Dogs, who have been raising a ruckus over health care reform. I disagree, though, with Krugman’s premise: “Right now the fate of health care reform seems to rest in the hands of relatively conservative Democrat.” I think the ultimate bottleneck remains the Senate, where Democrats need 100% of their members, many from conservative states, to stop a filibuster. In the House, Democrats only need 50% plus one, which doesn’t take you very deep into red America.

Actually, as Nate Silver has pointed out, there is a larger moderate bloc in the House; for example, there are 39 House Democrats more conservative than the second-most conservative Senate Democrat. Of course, Silver also notes the importance of the center in the Senate, where each is proportionately more of the overall vote. And so far, despite multi-million dollar attacks from the Left, red-state Democratic senators like Kent Conrad and Mary Landrieu have not caved yet (Obama Administration officials recently got a frosty reception on the topic down on the bayou). Even so, the argument for the Senate being key rests more in that chamber’s rules — the filibuster and the Byrd rule — than in its ideological makeup. But the argument for the Senate goes a bit further than that. As Chait himself noted last week:

The Democrats want the House to pass a liberal bill, so that whatever gets passed out of the Senate can get nudged to the left. But the Blue Dogs don’t want to have to vote for a more liberal bill than what gets signed into law. So there’s a conflict between their interests and the party’s interest.

Ezra Klein may not fully understand what a prisoner’s dilemma really is, but he has otherwise stumbled into the current dynamic:

Some sources are speculating that the Blue Dogs are getting cold feet as they watch Max Baucus dither. Many of them felt burned by the hard and damaging vote on the cap-and-trade bill, as it looks like nothing will come of it in the Senate. Committing themselves to a health-care bill before the Senate shows its hand carries similar risks, and they’re no longer in a risk-taking mood. The worst outcome for conservative Democrats in the House is that they’re on record voting for a health-care reform bill that dies in the Senate and is judged a catastrophic example of liberal overreach.

The problem, of course, is that the more dissension there is among Democrats in the House, the less pressure there’ll be on the Senate Democrats to make a hard vote on health-care reform. This makes health-care reform something of a prisoner’s dilemma for conservative Democrats. If Blue Dogs in the House and centrists in the Senate both put it on the line to pass the bill, they’re both better off. But if one puts it on the line and the other whiffs, then the other pays the price.

Neither Klein nor Chait notices the irony of this situation. The Obama administration’s general approach to the healthcare issue has been to look at what the Clintons did in 1993-94 and do the opposite. But Hillarycare failed after House Democrats already had voted on an unpopular economic package, including a BTU tax which died in the Senate. This year, Democrats rammed through an unpopular, partisan “stimulus” package, and House Democrats again were forced to back an equally unpopular energy tax (the so-called “cap-and-trade” bill for carbon emissions) that is again dying in the Senate.

Of course, history never repeats itself exactly. Ben Domenech suggests that this time, Obama’s plan has more support from industry and less coherent opposition from the populist right. The former is likely true, due to changes in the industry in the last 16-year cycle. The latter may be temporarily true, as the point of Obama’s strategy was to not release a draft bill as a target. Now Congress is at work, and approval of the effort is sliding daily.


14 Responses to “Alphonse, Gaston & Obamacare”

  1. Karl, awesome post. I had linked previously to two Dem politicos receiving a lot of flack during their photo – op townhall meetings with their constituents. Senator Cardin (D – Maryland) and Rep. Carnahan (D – MO) were particularly noteworthy:

    Here’s Cardin’s –

    Carnahan’s –

    The anger is rising, and they’re going to hear much more during their August recess.

    Dmac (e6d1c2)

  2. At some point, maybe the Dems will realize that they are pushing an idea that, if they are honest about their intentions and goals (snort), that the American public is actively opposed to.

    JD (4cd453)

  3. Obama was right on trying to ‘force’ a vote before the recess. At this point, it’s going to be very tough to get a bill that both houses can agree on. Hopefully, large numbers of voters will turn out to let their rep or sen know how they feel.

    The polling depicts very close numbers; although the ‘strongly against’ far ourweigh the ‘strongly for’. – in terms of most major points.

    Corwin (ea9428)

  4. As more time elapses, and a bill actually takes shape so that it’s details can become known, the more opposition against it will crystallize; among Democrats!

    These guys are fighting for their phony-baloney jobs now, after being strongarmed to pass the crap-tastic porkulus and Cap-n-Tax bills, and after getting an earful during the August recess will be less likely to risk their seats and futures to advance Obama’s agenda; especially in light of his sliding poll numbers…

    B-B-But, if only the obstructionist wingers would support the president…[wring hands]

    Well look who are the obstructionist wingers now!

    In a word? Waterloo!

    Bob (99fc1b)

  5. Have any of you over 30 ever gone back to read some of your writings from college? You know, the A grade papers you saved and were quite proud of? I have re-read some of mine and my husband’s. What I see in many of them is some intelligence and decent wordsmithing and most definitely sincerity–but also a naivety combined with the untempered “sureness of thought” which comes from a still limited worldview of youth. I think it is the same experience for many people. And this is why, especially politicians, fight to keep their early college work from being published (as our President has).

    This always comes to mind when I read Ezra Klein’s writings which these days seem to be everywhere and quoted everywhere. I mean, this guy is obviously smart, but he is twenty five years old!! Yet, here he is pontificating and telling us how the world works, and how things should be done, and what is going to happen. How and why he has reached this level of perceived authority and credibility frankly puzzles me. I am willing to bet that someday a couple decades from now Ezra will read some of these early writings and smile and shake his head over his own political innocence and the contradictions in his remarks. Unfortunately, Ezra’s work will be cached in Google instead of stored in a box under the bed where most of us keep ours.

    [found in spam filter.]

    Elizabeth (433345)

  6. The worst outcome for conservative Democrats in the House is that they’re on record voting for a health-care reform bill that dies in the Senate and is judged a catastrophic example of liberal overreach.

    That’s close. The worsterest outcome though would be if the liberal overreach on health-care reform is seen as an ideological FAIL amidst a worsening economy. People will remember how much “capital” was spent on this power-grabby effort as the unemployment rate climbed and climbed.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  7. Trying to make sense of a group that is as loosely coupled as the “Blue Dogs” will be a real trip for those who like to think in lock step. You see, these guys are all really “free agents” with a few areas of overlap. Leave it to Paul Krugman, who lives in the “informational cascade” of his academia bubble that is purged of “conservative” thought, to lose sight of that.

    Neo (46a1a2)

  8. This is bill needs to die by any means necessary. Lie, slander, make-up facts, blackmail — do what it takes but kill it.

    Soylent-Green Care is what they should call it.

    HeavenSent (01a566)

  9. No, the worst outcome is to place health care in the hands of Chicago way politicians and their thuggish allies, while all the exits are locked the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. I refer to these rules in the bill.

    Severe limits on the purchase of private insurance. The House Democratic bill would make it illegal for Americans to buy health insurance from a company outside of the new structure. It’s the government-approved system or nothing.

    Government-controlled market access. In the bill approved by Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, states would have the authority to limit the number of insurance offerings provided to consumers in “exchanges,” which are the government-run agencies that oversee consumer enrollment in insurance plans. Qualified insurers seeking to offer coverage to “exchange” participants may or may not get to do so. It would be up to government bureaucrats, who could deny market entry to an insurer for apparently any reason. It’s entirely predictable that this broad authority will be abused to benefit politically connected providers — at the expense of consumers.

    These are not benign provisions.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  10. If there is less opposition from the medical care industry it is because they have seen the consequences of opposition as exemplified by the auto and financial industries.

    The failure to detail what the plan is and the endless lies are used to hide the true scope and nature of the plan from the American public.

    The plan includes:
    -huge expansion of the bureaucracy
    -special “minority” health committees
    -special admission proceedures for “select” minorities into med school
    -taxpayer funded abortions
    -all institutions will provide abortion services
    -audit of all businesses that do not join plan
    -no appeal of government gatekeeper decisions
    -rationing galore
    -eldercare (suicide)

    The question is how responsive will politicians be to the public. My guess is not very. But I doubt this can last and the backlash will be stunning.

    Thomas Jackson (8ffd46)

  11. People need to keep asking Obama what’s in the bill. His inability to answer with any degree of specificity exposes his lack of leadership and adds more nails to the coffin of this monstrosity. There is a better way than Obamacare.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  12. Soylent Green Health Care

    HeavenSent (01a566)

  13. I don’t think Landrieu goes for it

    my fear is Snowe and Collins will

    Hawkins (2c6336)

  14. SOS (Save our Seniors) Obama care for Seniors is Obama Scare. Please call senators and let them know our seniors don’t deserve the death penalty what did they do wrong not vote for the egotistical maniac.

    domino (516e44)

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