The pressure is on Pelosi to pass the Senate bill in the House, before it goes on to reconciliation in the Senate, but there continues to be a question as to how she’s going to get the votes.
The Politico reports:
After a year of competing proposals and controversy, the fate of the president’s health care proposal rests with a small pocket of Democrats who are caught between the demands of party leaders in Washington and the discontent of angry voters back home. Some voted for earlier bills. Others didn’t.
“I just don’t know where they get the votes in the House,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, a Democrat who opposed the House bill but now says he’d consider supporting the final package. “It’s a huge challenge because … the people who voted yes would love a second bite at the apple to vote no this time because they went home and had an unpleasant experience as a result of their ‘yes’ vote. I don’t know if there is anybody who voted no that regrets it.”
So here comes Plan C, which I’m guessing won’t be much smaller than the bill Obama introduced last week but will, as Barnes hints, incorporate a few GOP ideas like tort reform. The hope is that liberals will be placated by its sheer size while Blue Dogs will be tempted by the inclusion of a few token conservative proposals to make their vote more defensible to red districts. Pelosi gave you a sneak preview of the new spin yesterday: The bill doesn’t need Republican votes to be “bipartisan,” all it needs are Republican ideas. And if it has Republican ideas, why shouldn’t it be rammed through with reconciliation, right? Voila — Plan C, the first “bipartisan” bill in history aimed at a party-line vote.
Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama has been able to watch the health care debate from both sides of the aisle. Elected as a Democrat in 2008, he was part of the House Democratic caucus until last Dec. 22, when he switched sides to become a Republican.
Given Griffith’s unique perspective — he is also a doctor, with 30 years’ experience as an oncologist — perhaps he has some insight into why the White House and his former Democratic allies in Congress continue to press forward on a national health care bill despite widespread public opposition.
It’s gotten personal, Griffith says. “You have personalities who have bet the farm, bet their reputations, on shoving a health care bill through the Congress. It’s no longer about health care reform. It’s all about ego now. The president’s ego. Nancy Pelosi’s ego. This is about personalities, saving face, and it has very little to do with what’s good for the American people.”
Conflicts driven by personal feelings can lead to self-destructive outcomes. Ask Griffith whether Speaker Pelosi, his old leader, would accept losing Democratic control of the House as the price for passing the health care bill, and he answers quickly. “Oh yeah. This is a trophy for the speaker, it’s a trophy for several committee chairs, and it’s a trophy for the president.” It does not seem to matter that if Democrats lose the House, the speaker will no longer be speaker, the chairmen will no longer be chairmen, and the president will be significantly weakened.
As Griffith sees his former colleagues, Democratic leaders have become so consumed with the idea of achieving the historical goal of a national health care system that they are able to explain away the scores of opinion polls over the last six months that show people solidly opposed to the Democratic proposal.
And now Democratic leaders are showing signs of weakness. Why would they suddenly express interest, even feigned interest, in Republican ideas they derided for months? Why would they invite GOP lawmakers to a high-profile discussion of health care? Because they don’t have the votes to pass the bill. “If they had the votes, we wouldn’t have had the summit,” said Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn on CBS Sunday.
That’s a change from the heady days of last year, when Democrats, as Griffith says, “never really wanted anyone else’s input” on health care. When a Republican offered a suggestion, “There was a polite smile and a comment like, ‘That’s very interesting, and we’ll take a look,'” Griffith recalls. Of course, they never did. Now, they make a big show of listening.
But it’s too late to make the fundamental changes that would be required to improve the bill. It’s too late to change public opinion. It’s too late to reassure nervous lawmakers. The Democratic leadership has made the decision to push the bill to the very end, and so they will.
Just a thought…
If as Karl Rove says, Pelosi tries to strong arm wavering blue dogs by threatening to make their lives hell in the House, what’s to stop them from switching sides like Griffith did? That would be one way to keep their jobs…