Green Room

ObamaCare: How the Senate GOP blew its chance

posted at 12:01 am on December 21, 2009 by

As I write this, the Senate is on track to pass its version of ObamaCare in the dead of night. That is something the Dems failed to do in 1994, when George Mitchell ended up having to pull ClintonCare off the floor. What was different this time?

First and foremost, the Dems have a larger caucus today. Absent Arlen Specter’s party-switch, or Al Franken’s 312 vote election victory, the story may have been different.

Second, the Obama administration bought off the special interests (or “stakeholders”) involved, following in a progressive tradition stretching back to Teddy Roosevelt. Some of today’s progressives are disgruntled over the current limits it puts on their ambition, but they would be just as unhappy if the bill(s) had sunk under the weight tens of millions of negative ads, as happened in 1994. They would just be unhappy at different people.

Third, the Senate GOP took the bad hand it was dealt and played it badly. Could the GOP have sunk ReidCare by being more obstructionist? Possibly. Had they been successful in dragging the debate into 2010, some Dems might have become more skittish. The leadership might have been tempted to try reconciliation, which would have looked terrible politicially and likely would have cranked public opposition to toxic levels.

But 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 pass the bill. *** 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.

As far as I know, those types of amendments were never proposed (and if they were, the fact that someone following the debate as closely as I am would be unaware of them would suggest that using the strategy of using amendments for “messaging” was an abject failure). Harry Reid expected a GOP “doc fix” amendment, which would have either eliminated the Dems’ false claims of deficit reduction, or aggravated the AMA (one of the bought “stakeholders”) and doctors generally. In 1994, a GOP amendment gutting the employer mandate passed unanimously, which was key to the ClintonCare’s demise. The opposition to ReidCare’s “pay or play” from Left and Right should have made it a similarly inviting target. Without effective mandates, the bill’s math would have fallen apart. These are just my two favorite examples. I am sure others have their own candidates.

Some point to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s track record of losing almost every major legislative battle he has managed. But the problem may be more systemic. The Senate GOP began almost entirely focused on the “public option,” and did not start turning against the mandates that drive ObamaCare until weeks after the summer recess. The Republican caucus may not be much less corporatist than their Democrat counterparts. The differences between today’s Senate GOP and 1994 may be: (1) Big Insurance is largely onboard with ReidCare; and (2) McConnell is not planning on running for president, as Bob Dole was in ’94.

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Jim DeMint needs to be leading Senate Republicans.

Excellent points Karl, I realized the other day mandates should have been the focus when I read this quote I found from Paul Krugman:

If Mr. Obama gets to the White House and tries to achieve universal coverage, he’ll find that it can’t be done without mandates — but if he tries to institute mandates, the enemies of reform will use his own words against him.

If you combine the economic analysis with these political realities, here’s what I think it says: If Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, there is some chance — nobody knows how big — that we’ll get universal health care in the next administration. If Mr. Obama gets the nomination, it just won’t happen.

I put together a few of Obama’s own statements against mandates from the campaign. When the people who haven’t fully grasped what is in this bill find out about the mandate they’re going to hate it as much as the progressives. I think we need to make sure people find out about the mandate before this thing gets to Obama’s desk. Fight to the end.

msmveritas on December 21, 2009 at 12:31 AM

DeMint & Coburn need to lead the Senate not these losers.

bill30097 on December 21, 2009 at 12:54 AM

Specter would have voted for this anyway had he still been a Republican, and he probably would have gotten a few cosmetic changes in it enough to bring along Collins and Smowe. So don’t go blaming him, his defectikon probably helped the Republicans rather than hurt.

The real blame goes to the corrupt election officials in Minnesota and the stupid voters there who elected Al Franken.

Republicans may also be confident that the individual mandate will not survive a court challenge. I don’t think it will either. Mitch McConnell does have a track record there, having successfully gotten most of McCain-Feingold tossed.

That being said, I was diappointed in McConnell’s final speech last night. It should have echoed John McCain’s, and he should simply have read once again every promise that candidate Barack Obama made on this issue that has been broken in this legislation. The challenge should now be to Obama to either fix this bill or veto it.

rockmom on December 21, 2009 at 9:43 AM

DeMint & Coburn need to lead the Senate not these losers.

bill30097 on December 21, 2009 at 12:54 AM

I say DeMint.

deidre on December 21, 2009 at 10:46 AM

Wining is a habit and so is losing. The Republican
with the biggest balls is women. We need some Warriors.

uber on December 21, 2009 at 11:07 AM

Your kidding me with this crap, right?

This crap was ready to pass in July of this year, to drag it to Christmas was definitely a Christmas miracle.

The people stopped this back in July and then crammed townhalls all across this country.

Elections have consequences. The Dems got this when they voted for Obama.

Now before everyone flips out, there is still a chance to kill this after reconciliation. We can also flip the House next year, but the Senate will be tough.

Still, you can take about the filibuster proof majority in 2010 and then take the majority in 2012.

You can also replace the President in 2012. Remember, this bill does not go into full effect until 2014.

The idea that the GOP could have stopped this is ridiculous. Actually they could have if somehow they did not lose their way in 2005 and hand over the control over the American people to the Dems in 2006.

kcarpenter on December 21, 2009 at 11:13 AM

Good points

Point one. The DEMs own Congress. IMHO even some of the so called buy offs of ‘reluctant’ DEMs were staged so the so-called paid-off-DEMs could deliver soliloquys about their love of their constitutents taking precedent over natl politics. And they still get the pork to boot

Point two. They didn’t have to ‘buy off’ stake holders. Providers and insurers were drooling over the new customer base in a bad economy. They owned the stake holders

Point Three The GOP played it so badly (inside the building) it smelled a rat. I almost felt Bob Dole had not left the building, because he would have been cheering the idiot bill. IMHO a significant portion said one thing in public while they softballed it with their phoney amendments. These (GOP) guys are not procedurally stupid, but it is better to appear stupid than crooked. Guess they don’t want to stop the gravy train either

entagor on December 21, 2009 at 11:23 AM

There’s plenty of time to discuss how the gop effed up. Right now I would be more interested in how to stop this monstrosity.

Blake on December 21, 2009 at 11:26 AM

An interesting strategy, from Redstate:

The Extraordinary Measures Needed to Kill the Bill — Updated with Vote Numbers
Posted by Dan Perrin (Profile)
Sunday, December 20th at 4:22PM EST
The corruption of using the public treasury as a check book to buy the votes of Senator Nelson and Senator Sanders — in the face not only overwhelming public opposition, but also in the face of a public that now wants Congress to do nothing on health care — means that extraordinary measures are needed to kill ObamaCare.

This plan, if executed properly, will kill the bill and it will give opponents two more bites at the apple, after it passes the Senate.

There are some atmospheric conditions that will help this plan work. For example, both sides of the net roots should cease fire on posts against each other. There must be a truce until the bill is dead. The target is the bill, not each other.

So, for those on the left who have decided to kill this bill, they are welcome to join in this the kill-the-bill fun.

Rationale: There are many reasons in agreement between the right and the left and the American public about why this bill must be killed:

1. It will increase health care costs;
2. The individual mandate is massive government intrusion on individual freedom, and is a gift to the private insurers, and disproportionately impacts lower-income families;
3. The fantasies of CBO’s assumptions notwithstanding, this bill will accelerate our march to financial insolvency; and,
4. Passage of the bill merely reinforces the practice of buying votes with debt issued by the U.S. Treasury;
5. Among many other reasons, in the words of Howard Dean, the bill does more harm than good.

The Plan: First, conservatives will object to the appointment of the conferees. This is not a motion, so it is non-debatable. An objection cannot be overcome unless the Senator making the objection caves. Let’s hope Senator McConnell agrees with this approach — but regardless, the objection shall be made.

This forces two votes in the U.S. House, one vote to amend the Senate bill on the House floor, since the Senate bill likely cannot pass the House unamended, and will force another vote on final passage of the amended House bill.

So, first, conservatives force two votes in the House, by preventing the appointment of the conferees, and therefore, preventing a House-Senate Conference.

Second, the left will focus on three separate issues to kill the bill in the House. The object of these issues is not to support these policies per say, but to add items to the House bill that will be so objectionable that when the bill goes back over to the Senate, that the Dems lose one or more of their 60 votes.

The Public Option: The progressive’s net roots should hold accountable the Democratic House members who said they would not vote for the bill if there was no public option. Progressives need to produce enough votes to force the public option back into the bill. Forcing the public option back into the bill is in the progressive’s interest since it will show they have the political power to do it, and will set a precedent for a new health care reform baseline in the House for Democrats. It is in conservative’s interest for this to happen because if it does, Senator Lieberman’s vote reverts to a NO.

The Nelson Buy-Off: Both the left and the right net roots will focus on pulling the Nebraska and Vermont free pass on increased Medicaid spending, on the basis that it is a corrupt back room deal that may be unconstitutional on the basis that it violates the equal protection clause (the 14th amendment to the Constitution.)

Unions: Unions must pull the Senate tax on Cadillac health plans, and replace it with the House tax on individuals. (I know, I can’t believe I just wrote that either!) This will force Senators, when the bill goes back to the Senate, to oppose the bill which could force the Dems lower than 60 votes.

Hold the No Votes: Conservatives need to hold and add one or two more no votes to the 39 House votes against the bill, among those Democrats who have concerns about their own re-election or who have announced their retirement — since the leverage from the Speaker has substantially decreased. If every No vote on the original House bill holds, there only needs to be two additional no votes.

Pro-Life and Pro-Abortion Forces: In short, have at it. Given the Stupak amendment majority in the House, the pro-lifers must stick Stupak back on the bill, so that when it is sent back to the Senate, the pro-abortion majority can pull Stupak back off. When the bill goes back to the Senate, the pro-abortion forces can remove Stupak, just as they did a couple of weeks ago. Once Stupak is pulled again from the Senate it must go back to the House to be amended, or die there.

I am willing to coordinate these actions with the left in real-time, and work with the Progressives who want to kill the bill — to share intelligence and whip counts. This way the left and the right working together will accomplish not only what we want, but what the American people want.

Oh, I did not mention this in the original post, but should have:

we do not need any more than 42 votes on the House floor, and last time there were 39 No votes.

Assuming we have a hard base of 25 no Dem votes, then the net roots need to produce eight House votes on either the abortion or public option question.

The Stupak folks ought to be able produce ten additional no votes.

This is not difficult math. And is already telling its members to oppose the Senate bill.

TXUS on December 21, 2009 at 11:30 AM

Actually they could have if somehow they did not lose their way in 2005 and hand over the control over the American people to the Dems in 2006.

kcarpenter on December 21, 2009 at 11:13 AM

…and America is now tasting the bitter fruit of the GOP’s abandonment of conservatism. Yeah, it’s time for an enema.

Fletch54 on December 21, 2009 at 11:32 AM

If we had not focused on the public option, the current bill would most likely have had the medicare buy in.

jhffmn on December 21, 2009 at 11:33 AM

Yet one more example that Repubs are pussies and incompetent!
I’ve recommended reading Horowitz’s book “The Art of Political War” Repubs look at politics as a debate club. The left looks at politics as a knife fight.
McConnel, et al, have learned NOTHING..and it shows!

Amendment X on December 21, 2009 at 11:36 AM

Right now I would be more interested in how to stop this monstrosity.

Blake on December 21, 2009 at 11:26 AM

Do not assume the GOP in Congress are united on stopping this. I would not take speeches or pledges from such at face value.

It is likely at this point, unless the public scares Congress to death, the GOP will play the same ball game in the next phase. The top of the GOP still assumes conservatives will vote GOP in the next election to avoid diluting their voice further. 2008 redux

They think a living breathing Obama gives them the base

IMHO at this point parties are polling while the MSM does a version of push-polling.

Short of an earthquake, the DEMs don’t care.

From what I see part of GOP do not mind the deal. It is amost as if the are getting ready to split the melon while pretending to denounce melon splitting

entagor on December 21, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Some of today’s progressives are disgruntled over the current limits it puts on their ambition, but they would be just as unhappy if the bill(s) had sunk under the weight tens of millions of negative ads, as happened in 1994. They would just be unhappy at different people.

“disgruntled progressives” is the last thing incumbent Democrats will be worrying about next year. The percentage that stays away from the polls will be an interesting figure.

The differences between today’s Senate GOP and 1994 may be: (1) Big Insurance is largely onboard with ReidCare; and (2) McConnell is not planning on running for president, as Bob Dole was in ‘94.

Big Insurance, the Pharmas, AMA, AARP, SEIU, AFL-CIO were ALL settled (paid with either language in the bill, vast amounts of cash, or future considerations), long before the Senate floor fight began. A “stacked deck” was well planned months ago. Reid and the Democrat leaders knew the vote count would be close and were prepared to buy two or three remaining votes no matter what the cost—an open checkbook at the taxpayers expense.

Next up Pelosi. Pelosi will make every attempt to keep her puppets in line by promising (behind more closed doors), further legislation—bits and pieces—that will go virtually un-noticed in 2010. If “the people” track ALL the money from now until November, and prepare a controlled campaign against the spenders the House and the Senate could both go Red. The key is to keep the independants fired up (at the right time). Republicans have lost this battle long ago, but the war against collectivism goes on.

Rovin on December 21, 2009 at 11:43 AM

I have never been a proponent of the “vote-’em-all-out” mindset.

But this time around, yes.

We do have some good people in the legislatures, but Karl raises some valid and, to me, damning points about how the GOP has squandered its opportunities to oppose this travesty.

This is not a time for “lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Each GOP Senator and Congressman/woman needs to do some soul searching. Are you for the United States of America and that for which we stand?

If you will not, each one of you, take a leadership position in opposition to the tyranny that Obsama/Reid/Pelosi represent, then just pack your bags and get out.

We don’t want you. We surely don’t need you.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you haven’t the courage to stand up in the safety of the Congressional chambers, you won’t have the courage when the time comes to oppose, in the streets, “ENEMIES BOTH FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.”

davidk on December 21, 2009 at 11:51 AM

I might add that Michelle’s post Cash for Cloture: Demcare bribe list, Pt. II will be ammunition for next years elections along with the trillions the democrats spent in Obama’s first year. Save her post—-it’s a good one!

Rovin on December 21, 2009 at 11:51 AM

“following in a progressive tradition stretching back to Teddy Roosevelt.”

Why does Karl refer to liberals as “progressives”?!!

There’s nothing ‘progressive’ about liberals / leftists.

clark smith on December 21, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Mitch McConnell has never been anything but a bump in the road to the dimocrats. When you have McCain, Grahamnesty to go with him, the Republicans don’t even respect them. A ship without a rudder rarely gets to where it needs to go.

volsense on December 21, 2009 at 12:03 PM


But, my simple mind can’t grasp the convolutions of this, to blame the GOP.

P’haps, if you were to work Bush into the scenario, it’d be easier to understand.

Or, not

franksalterego on December 21, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Why does Karl refer to liberals as “progressives”?!!

clark smith on December 21, 2009 at 11:52 AM

I hate to go Wiki, but it’s the fastest answer:

Progressivism is a political and social term for ideologies and movements favoring or advocating changes or reform, usually in an egalitarian direction for economic policies (public management) and liberal direction for social policies (personal choice). Progressivism is often viewed in opposition to conservative ideologies.

In the United States, the term progressivism emerged in the late 19th century into the 20th century in reference to a more general response to the vast changes brought by industrialization: an alternative to both the traditional conservative response to social and economic issues and to the various more radical streams of socialism and anarchism which opposed them. Political parties, such as the Progressive Party, organized at the start of the 20th century, and progressivism made great strides under American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

And if you read Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg traces how that history infoms today’s Left. In fact, I regret that Leftists stole and trashed the historic meaning of “liberal” (which is why many on the Right end up calling themselves “classic liberals”).

Karl on December 21, 2009 at 5:49 PM

But, my simple mind can’t grasp the convolutions of this, to blame the GOP.

franksalterego on December 21, 2009 at 2:33 PM

Try rereading it. I don’t blame the GOP for it. In fact, the first two factors mentioned have little to do with the Senate GOP. I do suggest that the GOP played their already bad hand badly, thereby blowing whatever chance there might have been to sink the Senate bill. And I suggest that the GOP might not have been as interested in stopping the Senate bill as they would like us to believe. But I’m ceratinly not suggesting that the GOP is primarily or secondarily to blame.

And the point in doing so is not to assign blame, but to examine what lessons we might learn from it, lest we repeat the same mistakes in future fights.

Karl on December 21, 2009 at 5:58 PM

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