Patterico's Pontifications


ObamaCare: Is the GOP helping pass it?

Filed under: General — Karl @ 11:51 am

[Posted by Karl]

With Pres. Obama giving a pep talk to Senate Dems Sunday (yet not mentioning the “public option” or abortion), it may be that ObamaCare is less than a done deal. But is the GOP taking pressure off the Dems by allowing votes on amendments, or helping to fix the bill? Senior GOP Senate staffers tell NRO’s Robert Costa:

No way… “The idea is to make Democrats walk through glass everyday until the final vote on this puppy,” says one. “Make them take the kinds of stands that will be tough to explain to the media today — and to their constituents come election time. McCain’s Medicare amendment is the perfect example of that.”

Bloggers at RedState disagree:

Top GOP leaders have mistakenly convinced themselves that the key to defeating the bill is to process a number of Republican “messaging” amendments while letting Democrats offer whatever amendments are necessary to buy 60 votes.

There are three fatal problems with this strategy: 1) leadership insists on pushing its own too-clever-by-half “message” instead of listening to the clear message faxed, e-mailed and phoned to every elected official in Washington (”KILL THE BILL!”), 2) as evidenced by the articles above, the current “messaging strategy” is an abysmal failure, and 3) by allowing amendments to be processed at no cost to the majority party, GOP leaders are merely greasing the skids for government-run health care.

Quite apart from the issue of whether the GOP “messaging” gets picked up in the establishment media, when I look at the current list of 91 amendments (about half of which come from the Dem caucus), it is not clear to me that the GOP is proposing amendments that would make it more difficult to pass the bill. (I cannot be definitive about this, as the texts of these amendments are generally not online yet.) For example, none of the amendments looks to be the “doc fix” that would force Dems to admit that they have not accounted for hundreds of billions of dollars they plan to spend. None of the amendments appear to address the “pay or play” employer mandate that is hated by both Right and Left.

However, obstructing on every amendment is probably not a feasible overall strategy. It would probably result in more of the action moving into Harry Reid’s office, where necessary amendments would get bundled into a “manager’s amendment” with a 60 vote guarantee. The silver lining is that the list of amendments is getting larger all of the time. The aforementioned list of 91 does not include the tort reform offered by Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1995, but rejected by the Senate on Sunday, or Sen. Ben Nelson’s pro-life amendment, which may be considered on Monday. It may be that the GOP is holding more damaging amendments in reserve.


18 Responses to “ObamaCare: Is the GOP helping pass it?”

  1. I think as long as they vote against this dirty socialist monstrosity then they’ve pushed their cleverness to the utter limit of what we can ask of these ones.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  2. happy

    So, um, what you are saying is you are grading on a curve?

    Actually i read another analysis somewhere that the real problem with the strategy is it is giving dems a chance to vote against parts of the plan separately. i am not sure how well that will really work, though. so you were agaisnt it before you were for it?

    A.W. (e7d72e)

  3. They’re sort of shortbus I think, A.W., especially the Senate ones. Also I think the RedState people are very very right about the messaging campaign being FAIL. I don’t think Karl would be writing this post otherwise.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  4. happy, well now, that really isn’t nice… to short busers.

    A.W. (e7d72e)

  5. The problem with being the Party of “No” and nothing more, is that, with the delay between the start “tax taking” and the actual healthcare changes taking place, will give the Democrats plenty of political shield, with it quite possible the final implementation will begin under a Republican President who will get the blame.
    The strategy of “walk through glass everyday” moves much of the political pain upfront where it can do the most damage.

    Neo (7830e6)

  6. Neo,

    I’d argue the delay between the taxing and the spending — done to game the CBO — does not give the Dems a shield in the real world. It’s much like the scheme that had seniors chasing Rosty down the street until Congress repealed the catastrophic (no pun intended) bill passed in the 80s.

    Karl (f8195e)

  7. Karl, you are dealing here with “short attention span theater”. You have to keep pounding the message home .. most folks will just say I can’t do anything and move on to their golf game.

    Neo (7830e6)

  8. Neo,

    Folks will notice that they are paying taxes (and higher premiums) and not getting benefits. But it would take… community organizers… to produce the same sort of mobs, just as in the 80s.

    That being said, I am all for the GOP introducing uncomfortable amendments, too.

    Karl (f8195e)

  9. Karl, that happens no matter, but they will then remember that the Republicans were making noise about this when it was passed. Staying quiet now leaves them angry at both parties later.

    Neo (7830e6)

  10. They have no good option. Some amendments will allow Democrats some cover next year but pushing it down the path to 11/10 makes it less likely that voters will forget about it. It also has a secondary effect of pushing Cap & Trade back more and more and that is even worse for the country than this is. This can be reversed and they may have outsmarted themselves since the taxes come first, well before any benefits.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  11. Another interesting story over on HuffPo — apparently the Dems are looking at a plan to avoid a contentious conference proceeding, requiring new votes in the House and Senate on a conference report if the Senate ever passes a bill.
    The new plan is to turn the “Manager’s Mark/Amendment” into a de facto conference report. Reid will be proposing a Manager’s Amendment which will include many many changes to the pending bill, both big and small. What’s being worked out at the staff level right now is input from the House leadership on what changes the House liberals would insist on. If the Senate can get to 60 votes with the changes from the Manager’s Amendment, any Senate bill passed out would then be voted on without changes by the House. There would be no conference, and no need for the Senate Dems to again get 60 votes to support a conference report.

    One key to getting this done in the House is that the Senate bill might won’t likely have the Stupak language in it. Reid will toss the public option in exchange for not having any abortion language in the bill, then hope to grab Snowe or Collins to offset the loss of Nelson.

    Once passed, they’ll kick it back over to Pelosi in the House, where she’ll use every trick in her bag to threaten, bully, or bribe votes on a straight up or down vote. Progressives will have to swallow the bill if they want campaign support, earmarks, etc. The real question is whether she can bend those Blue Dogs who are anti-abortion, led to Stupak, into voting for the bill.

    Shipwreckedcrew (6178ee)

  12. Shipwreckedcrew: Good analysis and pretty spot-on. I hadn’t heard the information about the Manager’s Amendment.

    Nelson’s anti-abortion amendment doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in the Senate. And I believe the Stupak language will be stripped out in conference or somewhere along the way. Maybe it will walk into traffic or fall down the stairs. Democrats can’t have a potential roll-back of woman’s rights attached to their name, not in the final analysis. Maybe they’ll come up with a “super-Hyde” amendment to throw the Blue Dogs a bone. Who knows?

    You’re right, Reid will come up with some vapor of a quasi-public option, something like this thing they’re talking about that is similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Nonprofit private insurers would provide the coverage. This should pick up Snowe, and maybe Collins and Lieberman. I’m still hoping for a public option worthy of the name, but I acknowledge it’s more wishing than anything at this point.

    Killing the public option is the biggest victory the GOP can get with 40 votes. (Big win for Big Insurance, too.) But I wouldn’t count on the public option staying dead for all time, either.

    So yeah, in the end, this will come down to Nancy, post-Stupak, bending the caucus to her will, once again. And I believe she will. I’ve been waiting to see her get really tough.

    Finally, to Karl’s original post, I have also read the Red State analysis and have yet to see a cogent reason presented as to why the GOP would pivot and support this bill. I think they’re trying to push it to next year, where potentially, all bets are off.

    Harry says he’s working through the holidays.

    Myron (998393)

  13. If I were cynical, and I am, I would say the Reps are okay with it passing as long as they can use that to take power in 2010, then have control over the monster pile of money–which they allowed to be taken over by government.

    Patricia (b05e7f)

  14. That may be true, Patricia, but with 40 votes in the Senate and a minority in the House, there are limits to the GOP ability to stop this legislation.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  15. Which is why the American public should have really, really thought thrice about allowing *all three branches of government* to have liberal supermajorities (well, okay, the Presidency is a supermajority of one, but I’m guessing a heckuva lot of judges are squishes).

    Gregory (f7735e)

  16. […] that is not the whole story.  The other part (or another part) was the substance of the GOP amendments: [I]t is not clear to me that the GOP is proposing amendments that would make it more difficult to […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » ObamaCare: How the Senate GOP blew its chance (e4ab32)

  17. […] that is not the whole story. The other part (or another part) was the substance of the GOP amendments: [I]t is not clear to me that the GOP is proposing amendments that would make it more difficult to […]

    The Greenroom » Forum Archive » ObamaCare: How the Senate GOP blew its chance (e2f069)

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