Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled his chamber’s version of Healthcare Reform yesterday. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s version will guarantee health insurance coverage for 94% of Americans and cost $849 billion over 10 years, which will ultimately reduce the budget deficit by $127 billion.
“We’re proud of these figures,” Reid told reporters. “Not only do we make [health insurance] affordable for every American, we certainly do it in a fiscally responsible way.”
As expected, the Senate version includes a public option with an opt-out clause, persumably allowing Democrats from more pro-Republican constituencies the cover of voting for the bill, or at least for cloture, while claiming that the bill will give states the option to not participate if they so choose. The Senate version, like the House version, prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.
Now the tough part begins for Harry Reid. He has to make sure he has 60 votes on board to invoke cloture and get the bill to the floor for a vote. If he does and it passes, the Senate and House versions will have to be combined in conference committee, after which both chambers will have to pass the final version. So while Sen. Reid deserves praise for getting healthcare reform this far in the Senate, there is still a ways to go.
I haven’t posted in a while. And with Sarah Palin’s book Going Rogue coming out this week, there is certainly plenty for political pundits to analyze and discuss.
Via one of my fellow bloggers, I read a column by Andrew Malcolm in the Los Angeles Times that ponders the question of why Sarah Palin inspires so much hatred on the part of her opponents. Is it simply her beliefs themselves? Is it sheer snobishness? Do her opponents, especially her female opponents, somehow feel threatened by her?
Those probably have something to do with it. But I think most of the issue is not Sarah Palin’s beliefs themselves, but the way she conveys them. The Sarah Palin we’ve seen since John McCain tabbed her to be his running mate 15 months ago, the one some of whose fans have tabbed “the female Ronald Reagan,” has been very Un-Reagan-like in her style.
Simply put, she’s been a divider, not a uniter.
Much like Nancy Pelosi and (to an extent) Hillary Clinton on the left, Sarah Palin is very in-your-face with her beliefs and values, in many ways demonizing those who don’t march in lockstep with her. This attitude gets under her opponents’ skin, so when she has a moment of vulnerability (the Couric interview, etc.), they’re more than happy to exploit it.
Reagan espoused his values in a more genteel, welcoming way. Reagan understood that everybody wasn’t going to agree with him on every part of his ideology. But he based his message on a few key non-divisive issues that unified Americans of many persuasions. That’s how he won over the Reagan Democrats (of course, Jimmy Carter being the worst President of the last 60 years helped his cause).
Sarah Palin, however, went on the campaign trail last year talking about “Real Americans” and questioning people’s patriotism and belief in their country’s values. The implication was that anyone who didn’t believe in her brand of conservatism was somehow less of an American. Maybe that wasn’t her intent. But between her campaign style and some of the words that she said and some of the things that happened at her rallies, that’s how it came across. And while it fired up her party’s base, it equally galvanized her opponent’s base against her.
I don’t recall Reagan inspiring that kind of divisiveness. I don’t recall him questioning Jimmy Carter’s patriotism or accusing Walter Mondale of palling around with terrorists. The closest I can recall Reagan coming to that was his “Welfare Queen” remark during his failed 1976 primary campaign. Reagan unified.
If Sarah Palin or any other Republican wants to win next year or in 2012, they need to run the type of campaign that Reagan did, and that Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell did this year. Espouse conservative principles, but do so based on the issues of the day in your constituency. Present a clear alternative to your opponent, but don’t be a jerk about it. And don’t focus simply on pandering to your base with culture war rhetoric. Reagan, Christie and McDonnell didn’t win because of their stances on abortion, gay marriage and gun rights.
This is how Sarah Palin took down Frank Murkowski and the Republican establishment in Alaska to become Governor in 2006. It’s how she had approval ratings of close to 90% before McCain came calling. And it’s what she’ll have to get back to if she’s going to have any chance of overcoming her very sudden and clumsy resignation this past summer and having a political future.
President Obama, Democrats and health care reform supporters are giddy today over the House passing its version of reform late last night. It is certainly a big step in the right direction – a bigger one than any administration and Congress has taken since Lyndon Johnson created Medicare in the 1960s.
But I would caution those supporters to not get too giddy. Because there are still several mountains left to climb before this is a done deal.
The next one is in the Senate, which has yet to pass its own version. On paper, this shouldn’t be a problem – the Dems and those caucusing with them control 60 seats and have the Vice President – more than enough to get a simple majority. In practice, however, it’s not nearly that simple.
Senate debate rules require 60 votes to “invoke cloture,” or stop debate and bring a bill to an up-or-down vote. So Majority Leader Harry Reid actually needs 60 votes to get this done. And there are a number of Democratic caucus members who represent conservative constituencies (or are just in the pockets of the insurance companies) who will be a tough sell to get on board with a public option – one of the most critical parts of any real healthcare reform, in my opinion. This group includes Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Evan Bayh (Indiana) and Joe Lieberman (Connecticut). Lincoln and Bayh are both up for re-election next year. But Lieberman could be an even bigger fly in the ointment – he represents a rather liberal state (which went for Obama by 20 points last year) and votes with the Dems on most social issues. But he voted for the Iraq War and campaigned for Republican John McCain against Obama last year, even speaking at the Republican National Convention.
Reid could get around cloture rules by trying to pass the Senate’s version through budget reconcilliation, where he would need only 50 votes plus Vice President Biden. But this move would require the spending authorization to be renewed after 5 years. If the Republicans were to regain control of the Senate by that point, you know what would happen then.
The bill has already been delayed in the Senate and now may not even get passed this year, breaking President Obama’s second deadline. And if the debate goes into next year, moderate and conservative Democrats who are up for re-election in otherwise Republican districts or states are going to be even more reluctant to get on board.
Even if the Senate passes its version, it will have to be merged with the House version in conference committee. Both chambers will then have to pass the final combined version before President Obama can sign it. Same rules and obstacles will still apply.
So be happy with this step forward. But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet.