Archive for the ‘Health Care Reform’ Tag

Frum Fired

So the thing I don’t get about David Frum getting canned is that there’s an unequivocal sense in which the health care strategy of the GOP failed. And matter what flavor of the hour predictions Chris Matthews was making it always looked they’d pass something through. Even after Scott Brown, they had a bill through the Senate and a huge majority to work with in the House.

The viability of pretty any political strategy depends on an assessment of if you’ll or lose. Since they had 60 votes, or 59 and a passed bill it’s just clear why the GOP thought they would defeat the bill. There were never any unconditional no votes on the Senate side, just conditional yes votes. Maybe they didn’t they could win, but thought their opposition would lead the broader public drop their support for Obama. It hasn’t happened.

You get a similar calculus on financial reform, climate change or immigration. If it’s going to become law then maybe you don’t want to be on the losing side or you’ll take a tough vote to break the tie, but the same politicians being asked to be the 52nd vote for something that’s going down might not be so interested. Just thinking for myself I’d lose my seat for climate legislation, but not to make environmentalists feel better because they lost by a smaller amount.

So you can’t do strategy without having the discussion Frum wants to have, but apparently it’s beyond the pale for the modern GOP to even try to talk openly.



Zero-sum Fun

I would have thought that if a poll resulted in contradictory results, like the NBC-Wall Street poll on health care which says that voting for or against the health care reform will both make voters less likely to vote for their Congress person you might question the validity of poll results. But not if you’re Chuck Todd to whom such a finding indicates “polarization” of the issue.


Budget Reconciliation: Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda,

Chris Bowers of Open Left on Joe Lieberman‘s Coup d’nobody seems interested in standing up to him of the Senate Health Care refom bill:

Lieberman flip-flipped because he can. No matter what Lieberman does, the majority of the Democratic Senate caucus won’t do anything about it. Here is a quick review:

* When Lieberman left the party, and ran as an Independent against the Democratic nominee in Connecticut, most Democratic Senators gave him a standing ovation.

* When Lieberman endorsed John McCain, and campaigned with him throughout 2008, the Democratic Senate caucus overwhelmingly voted to allow him to keep his chairmanship.

* When Lieberman blows up a hard-fought deal on health care legislation, the Senate Democratic leadership immediately declares that circumventing Lieberman through reconciliation is still not on the table

Bowers adds that if budget reconciliation is not on the table after Lieberman yet again betrays them, then it never will be.

The budget reconciliation is actually a lot bigger then Lieberman, which is why they haven’t been willing to pull the trigger on using it. Even Conservative Dems have expressed public frustration with Lieberman, but that doesn’t mean they want to be bypassed themselves.

At the end of the day, I don’t see any possible scenario where any honest member of the Democratic Party looks backs at 2009 and is glad they refused to go with budget reconciliation on health care.


Nothing’s Going To Make Health Care Reform Uncontroversial

Politico says “Red-state Dems worried, rethink agenda

“I should be nervous,” said Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat from Huntsville, Ala.

Griffith said the Democratic rank and file is “very, very sensitive” to the fact that issues being pushed by party leaders “have the potential to cost some of our front-line members their seats.”

House Democrats, forced to take a tough vote on a controversial cap-and-trade climate change bill in June, may have to vote as earlier as this weekend on the even more controversial health care bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team have struggled to get moderates on board for that vote, and Tuesday’s results won’t make the task any easier.

There are all sorts of causal and chronological missteps in this formulation. Conservative Democrats have been complaining about the cap and trade vote all year long. They cite everything short of weather patterns as a reason they can’t vote with Pelosi, of course they think these elections are another reason. Nobody thinks environmental issues had anything to do with the New Jersey or Virginia outcomes. It’s similarly implausible New Jersey or Virginia voters cast their votes because they thought Pelosi needed to ditch the public option. I could on for a while…

But the biggest issue is that any Democrat is complaining about a Health Care Reform vote. Democrats have been trying to and in a few cases succeeding in passing Health Care Reform since the Truman Administration. It’s been a constantly recurring goal and it was clearly a central part of the platform that Obama and the Democrats ran on in 2008. Additionally the proximate reason Health Care is so controversial is that Republicans have decided that defeating Health Care Reform is the key to victory. When you combine the histories of the Democratic and Republican parties you see it’s absurd to think Pelosi or Obama is out of line to pursue Health Care Reform and nothing they could have done in that pursuit would kept the bill from being controversial.


P.S. Regarding Democratic Health Care Reform efforts, Rep. Dingell has in fact been proposing to reform the health care system annually since the 50s. Issues simply don’t come more ingrained in the party ethos, then health care does in the Democratic party.

Reporting the Big Picture

So I’ve been meaning to say if you want to follow the latest on the Health Care reform and the public option, there is no better source then Open Left and Chris Bowers. Here is a partial run down of the various efforts to influence the House bill:

The remaining barriers to passage of the health care bill in the House are two-fold:

1. Bart Stupak’s Regressive Block. Representative Bart Stupak is still looking to round-up forty votes to prevent he bill from going to the floor unless abortions are not covered under all health care plans that receive subsidies in the new insurance exchanges.

The leadership is convinced that if Stupak is able to offer an amendment to that affect on the House floor, that it will pass. If the amendment passes, it will kill the entire bill, because dozens of pro-choice Democratic votes would be lost. As such, the leadership will not allow any amendments to the health care bill on the floor. This means that once the bill hits the floor, that is the bill that will go to conference committee.

2. The Tri-Caucus Progressive Block. For months, the Progressive Caucus, the Black Caucus and Hispanic Caucus (and, I think, the Asian-American Caucus) have been trying to round up House Democrats who would vote against a health care bill unless it included the Medicare +5% option. Now that the bill will not include the Medicare +5% public option, the tri-caucus is sounding noncommittal about the bill.

What’s notable is that Chris Bowers makes no effort to be objective, in fact he’s actively pushing for a particular outcome, but he’s still more informative then most media sources. It’s matter of focus.

A typical media source reports a development, quotes a few people on the meaning of the development and maybe outlines the basic facts of the issues. The result is snap shot of a hugely complicated and constantly shifting reality, with side commentary from PR professionals trying to mislead people.

By contrast Open Left is constantly building a complete picture, looking to see if there is contradictory information from other sources and updating the picture rationally, instead of trying to present each day’s developments as game changing and shocking.

And of course the whole picture is what’s important. Lots of members of Congress want something to happen, make a scene, or throw a wrench in the process, but the important thing is if those actions change the big picture. If you want to know that then reading Open Left will get a lot further then the AP wire.


Medicare Part E

So if calling the public option “Medicare Part E” actually catches on and gets the bill through Congress it will add a whole new wrinkle of irrationality to the political process.

Since when did you need re-brand an already popular program? On top of that if retirees really are worried that Health Care Reform will undercut their benefits then this frame would presumably worsen that concern.

But you can’t argue with the polling numbers for “a program like medicare” nor can you argue with it if it gives Conservative Democrats a frame that gets them on board.


Public Still Favors Public Option

Nothing new here but let’s mark today’s Washington Post headline about Americans supporting the public option by noting that popular support is clearly not what’s holding back the public option.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public.

By contrast health care reform generally polls in the mid 40s. If public consent was driving the debate you’d be watching Senators scramble to add the public option instead of scrap it.

Another interesting aspect of the polls is that as currently constructed healthcare reform debate breaks down like a bit like European political outcomes. Here’s the numbers by political affiliation:

Overall, 45 percent of Americans favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent are opposed, about the same division that existed in August, at the height of angry town hall meetings over health-care reform. Seven in 10 Democrats back the plan, while almost nine in 10 Republicans oppose it. Independents divide 52 percent against, 42 percent in favor of the legislation.

More and more it seems like European elections end up with a winning coalition of around 48%-50% of the electorate. The losing party gets around 45% or sometimes much lower total as far left or right parties undercut their vote total dramatically. What’s weird about this tally is that often there is no majority for any policy direction. Maybe the left gets a majority, but for various reasons can’t form a coalition. Maybe neither the left or right get 50% as less clearly ideological parties grab up votes.

Here in the US such divisions are rare because of the dominance of the Democratic and Republican parties, but on this major issue you’re seeing a similar dynamic on the way forward. Like the adding of the public option you can only conclude the Senate isn’t especially responsive to public sentiment.


Don’t Bother Chasing the Media’s Ever Shifting Focus

So I have no idea what the White House is trying to accomplish by attacking Fox News, but nonetheless much of the criticism aimed at suggesting it’s a terrible decision is baseless.

Maybe it won’t accomplish anything to call Fox News biased, but there is no casual mechanism by which it will backfire. Despite the million references to losing focus or attention there is precious little reason to believe that any strategy would cause the media to focus on the substance of Obama’s reforms. Sure the balloon boy might fade into obscurity, but what if Sacha and Malia’s school changes their lunch menu again? What if Rev. Wright decides make jokes about some new ethnic group? More likely you’ll see more dishonest studies and push polls on health care by the enemies of reform, but the effect will be the same the public getting anything but the Obama message.

And it’s not like Obama is canceling security counsel meetings to think of a snarky comment to make about Fox News. The people thinking about how to respond to Fox News spend all day thinking about media, because they’re communications professionals.