Memo to Democratic Congressional Reps

You have one chance. Pass the sen­ate health care bill.

The pub­lic does not dif­fer­en­ti­ate between the house bill and the sen­ate bill.

You already vot­ed for the house bill.

Your repub­li­can oppo­nent in the fall is going to pin that vote on you incessantly.

And those who sup­port reform are not going to be all that enthu­si­as­tic because you did not pass it.

So you have the worst of both worlds: blame for the vote, and no cred­it for passage.

The repub­li­cans had one goal: pre­vent the pas­sage of health care.

They have almost succeeded.

The only bills (of any con­se­quence) that will pass between now and Jan­u­ary 2011 (if not lat­er) are bills through rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. The repub­li­cans have zero incen­tive to coop­er­ate with any­thing. Obstruc­tion has served them very well in the polls.

Health care reform can­not be done sole­ly through reconciliation.

Pass the sen­ate bill and then fix what can be fixed through reconciliation.

That is all.


Some­how it already feels like ancient his­to­ry, but the read­er per­haps remem­bers the hub­bub sur­round­ing the book Game Change when it was pub­lished eight days ago. Har­ry Reid was quot­ed talk­ing about Oba­ma’s lack of a Negro dialect. Sarah Palin is also depict­ed neg­a­tive­ly in the book.

Rei­d’s response was to stand up and admit he said what he said. And he apologized.

Pal­in’s response was to sim­ply state that the book was full of lies.

One might look at the two respons­es and draw con­clu­sions about who is lead­er­ship material.

On the oth­er hand, both of them respond­ed in the way that their pol­i­tics required of them. Pol­i­tics required Reid to man up and apol­o­gize. Pol­i­tics requires Palin to just declare the book to be lies. (Maybe they are lies. I don’t know).

With 63% of precincts report­ing, the Repub­li­can Brown is defeat­ing the Demo­c­rat Coak­ley in the Mass­a­chu­setts sen­ate race 53% to 46%. It is not look­ing good.

Now the Democ­rats are faced with the ques­tion of what to do with health care reform. Are they lead­ers or are they craven cow­ards to the polit­i­cal breeze.

TPM alerts us to the ear­ly leap by Indi­ana’s Bayh to cowardice.

The irony is that if the Dems lis­ten to the les­son of Mass­a­chu­setts and fail to pass health care, they will lose a lot more this fall then they will if they stand tall and pass the bill. They already vot­ed for it.

If Coak­ley does indeed lose, it prob­a­bly means the end of Cap and Trade. With luck the glob­al warm­ing deniers are correct.

Will we get lead­er­ship or politicians?

Ted Kennedy’s Senate Seat

Sen­a­tor Kennedy has request­ed that the Mass­a­chu­setts leg­is­la­ture and gov­er­nor move to change the law regard­ing how a vacant Sen­ate seat is filled. Kennedy’s inter­est is due to his own seri­ous health issue and the pre­car­i­ous nature of health reform leg­is­la­tion in the US Sen­ate. Health reform has been one of Kennedy’s top con­cerns his entire career.

Noam Scheiber over at The New Repub­lic thinks it would be a bad idea for Mass­a­chu­setts to change the law.

Scheiber thinks that Kennedy’s vacant seat after his death would increase the like­li­hood that health reform leg­is­la­tion would pass.

it would be sui­ci­dal for the GOP to fil­i­buster the cul­mi­na­tion of the last Kennedy broth­er’s life­long crusade.

I see two prob­lems here. I’m not con­vinced it would be sui­ci­dal for the GOP to do that (though pos­si­bly). More impor­tant­ly, I doubt the GOP would see it that way.

Fur­ther, I don’t see what dif­fer­ence it would make if Kennedy’s seat was filled by the gov­er­nor’s appoint­ment or not. If the GOP did believe it sui­ci­dal to “fil­i­buster the cul­mi­na­tion of the last Kennedy broth­er’s life­long cru­sade” why would the seat being filled change that calculation?

Scheiber goes on to say:

I sus­pect the cov­er­age of Kennedy’s death would silence health­care reform crit­ics and boost pro­po­nents in a way that net­ted at least a cou­ple of waver­ing mod­er­ates – so clear­ing the 51-vote thresh­old would­n’t be a prob­lem. Heck, you might even see Utah Repub­li­can (and long­time Kennedy friend) Orrin Hatch back in the reformist camp.

This may very well be true, but again, I don’t see how the gov­er­nor nam­ing some­one to fill the vacant seat dis­rupts this all that much. An addi­tion of a cou­ple of mod­er­ate votes would be help­ful to get to 60.

Final­ly, Scheiber is assum­ing that Kennedy is con­cerned about what will hap­pen after his death. It could be that Kennedy is pre­pared to resign the moment Mass­a­chu­setts makes the appro­pri­ate change in the law. Kennedy might be at the point where he now knows he will nev­er be on the floor of the Sen­ate again, but also know­ing his vote (read: his replace­men­t’s vote) will be needed.

I can see an argu­ment that Mass­a­chu­setts should not change the law based on the idea that laws should not be altered for polit­i­cal expe­di­en­cy. The Mass­a­chu­setts law used to allow the gov­er­nor to appoint some­one to a vacant Sen­ate seat but the leg­is­la­ture changed it when there was a faint hope that Ker­ry would vacate the seat to become Pres­i­dent and the Mass­a­chu­setts gov­er­nor at the time was a Repub­li­can. Not that I would be per­suad­ed in this par­tic­u­lar case by such an argu­ment, but it is a good one (and should have been heed­ed the first time around).

Missed Opportunity

Today seems to fea­ture a short video of Con­gress­man Bar­ney Frank respond­ing to a town hall attendee ask­ing about the Nazi poli­cies in the health care reform.

Frank responds to her with a dis­mis­sive insult. It is fun­ny. And, yes, I would not argue with the state­ment that she deserved the response she got. From what I’ve seen around the inter­net, lots of Democ­rats are gid­dy with delight over Frank’s response.

I’ve been watch­ing the “high­lights” from var­i­ous town meet­ings for a cou­ple of weeks or so. Lots of shout­ing from peo­ple who are against health care reform. Not dis­cus­sion, but dis­rup­tion. I under­stand how frus­trat­ing that can get. Peo­ple yell out stuff based on lies and no oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain how they are wrong is allowed.

Frank gets the rare case of a cit­i­zen ask­ing a bel­liger­ent ques­tion in a civ­il man­ner. She asks the ques­tion and then she stops talk­ing. Frank could actu­al­ly take a minute and explain why her assump­tions are incor­rect. He could explain how the Nazi com­par­i­son makes no sense. But no, he is dis­mis­sive and insulting.

To be clear, I seri­ous­ly doubt that there is any­thing that Frank could have said to change how the woman feels about the issue. But it is pos­si­ble that a few peo­ple would see the video of the exchange and learn something.

As it is, the video sim­ply jus­ti­fies the antics that have tak­en place pre­vi­ous­ly (with more to come, no doubt). Why not shout down the oppo­nent when the oppo­nent is only going to indulge in insults.

It prob­a­bly makes no dif­fer­ence, but it would be nice if some Demo­c­rat actu­al­ly explained why health care reform is not lead­ing us down the road to a fas­cist state (and why there was nev­er any plans for death pan­els that would pull the plug on grandma.…and.…)


It is inter­est­ing to me how often peo­ple I talk to do not believe in “facts”. Maybe it is true, maybe it isn’t. Who’s to say? That there is no short­age of talk­ing heads out there with no more agen­da than rat­ings and a will­ing­ness to just make stuff up (or repeat what some­one else made up) cer­tain­ly con­tributes to this phenomenon.

But there are facts. Jonathan Chait has a nice post up over at The New Repub­lic talk­ing about some facts.

One exam­ple is it is a fact that in Eng­land, the gov­ern­ment owns the hos­pi­tals and the doc­tors are gov­ern­ment employ­ees. It is also a fact that this kind of arrang­ment is not even being con­sid­ered by Oba­ma and the con­gress. More at the link.

Increas­ing­ly the right side of the polit­i­cal spec­trum seems to be spend­ing its time with hands over the ears chant­i­ng “no, no, no, no”.

No, we do not accept evolution.

No, we do not accept man caused cli­mate change.

No, we do not accept that the cur­rant health care sys­tem is in crisis.

It would be nice if there could be a dis­cus­sion of facts instead of rants.

Town Brawls

It is hard to know just how dis­rup­tive the protests have been at var­i­ous town hall meet­ings that con­gress­men and women are hav­ing around the coun­try. Some of the video I’ve seen is edit­ed and it isn’t clear whether a town hall meet­ing was allowed to go on or not.

The video of Texas Con­gress­man Dogget­t’s town hall seems to be at the end as he is prepar­ing to leave. The video could eas­i­ly have been pre­ced­ed by a pro­duc­tive town hall meeting.

Still, I sus­pect there have been some town halls that have nev­er got­ten off of the ground due to the dis­rup­tive protests. I think you can see more evi­dence in the video post­ed at TPMDC. I don’t know much about Rachel Mad­dow, and I believe she is guilty of being strong­ly biased to the lib­er­al side of things, but I do think that some of the video she shows counts as protests that dis­rupt the town hall.

Is that a bad thing? It is not as evil as many com­menters are mak­ing it out to be. When the con­gress­man needs a police escort to get safe­ly to his car, that may be over the line a bit. But from what I’ve seen, I’m bet­ting that there have been many such protests in the his­to­ry of this coun­try from many dif­fer­ent sides of the polit­i­cal spectrum.

The tac­tic of shout­ing down the oth­er side in a forum designed for dis­cus­sion is often used by those who have no good argu­ment to make.

Its Nice To Learn That Evrybodys So Concerned About My Health.

Kris Kristof­fer­son sings

Well, they final­ly came and told me they was a gonna set me free
And Id be leav­in town if I knew what was good for me
I said, its nice to learn that evry­bodys so con­cerned about my health.

The Repub­li­can’s con­cern over health care reform reminds me of that song. To be clear, the Repub­li­cans pri­ma­ry goal here is to have noth­ing done. One need look no fur­ther than the years 2003 through 2007. In those years the Repub­li­cans had majori­ties in both hous­es of con­gress and the pres­i­den­cy. Did they do any­thing about health care? No. It is not like the health care prob­lems that we have just appeared in the last two years.

Any Repub­li­can dis­cus­sion about “doing it right” and “going slow” real­ly just means pre­vent­ing any­thing from happening.

Public Option in Health Care Reform

Health reform with­out a pub­lic option is incom­plete reform. A pub­lic option will increase choice and reduce costs. 

Oppo­nents of a pub­lic option cite the supe­ri­or­i­ty of a free mar­ket over “gov­ern­ment” intru­sion. The prob­lem is that 94 per­cent of the coun­try’s insur­ance mar­kets are defined as “high­ly con­cen­trat­ed.” A pub­lic option would increase com­pe­ti­tion and cre­ate a free mar­ket where there is not one cur­rent­ly. Because of this, a pub­lic option will play an impor­tant role in bring­ing down costs (even George Will agrees the pub­lic option reduces costs).

The pub­lic option should not receive any tax­pay­er sub­sidy that is not avail­able to pri­vate plans.

There needs to be ele­ments in place that pre­vent pri­vate insur­ance com­pa­nies from skim­ming off the healthy and leav­ing the less healthy for the pub­lic plan.

I’ve seen the argu­ment against the pub­lic option that it will put pri­vate insur­ance com­pa­nies out of busi­ness. If the pub­lic option does not receive any sub­sidy not avail­able to pri­vate insur­ance plans, then this should not be an issue. In fact, a com­mon theme of con­ser­v­a­tives is the effi­cien­cy of the pri­vate sec­tor and the inef­fi­cien­cy of the gov­ern­ment sec­tor, so this should­n’t be an issue at all.

Which brings us to the argu­ment that the pub­lic option will become a huge inef­fi­cient gov­ern­ment bureau­cra­cy. If it does, then it would be expen­sive and peo­ple would buy cov­er­age from pri­vate plans.

I keep hear­ing that such a plan would put a gov­ern­ment bureau­crat between me and my doc­tor. There’s already an insur­ance bureau­crat between me and my doc­tor (and that has­n’t always been so pleas­ant a situation!).

Final­ly, there is evi­dence that peo­ple with Medicare and Med­ic­aid are hap­pi­er with those pro­grams than peo­ple with pri­vate insur­ance are with those plans. (Hat tip TPMDC) And there is polling evi­dence that most Amer­i­cans want a pub­lic option.

The pub­lic option is want­ed and need­ed. Write your Con­gressper­son and Senators.