ObamaCare: A failure of leadership
posted at 11:41 pm on January 21, 2010 by Karl
ObamaCare is not dead, but TPM’s Josh Marshall now joins my half-joking assessment on Twitter that it is Undead. And I find myself agreeing with his estimation that “there’s nothing but Plan B” — the two-bill strategy — open to the Dems, but time is of the essence.
Top Dems do not seem to be on that page. House Dems’ hopes of settling on a strategy by the weekend seemed to fade, as they continue to sort through their options. Senate Dems are not rushing to assure the House that differences can be worked out through budget reconciliation. Indeed, Sen. Chuck Schumer said that “concerns about the political climate” make that plan less than appealing to some Democrats.
All of which brings me back to Josh Marshall:
My strongest sense however is not so much that decisions have been made to drop reform as that it’s something like a matter of survivors walking around — half dazed — after some sort of natural disaster. There is no plan. It actually seems highly, highly fluid and possibly susceptible to dramatic change if any of the key players assert themselves. But I’m not sure there’s anyone really ready to do that, unless rank-and-file Democrats and Reform supporters assert themselves.
What the dazed and confused Dems are not asking (yet) is: Why was there no plan? The possibility that a Scott Brown victory in the Senate race in Massachusetts could affect final passage of ObamaCare was being publicly discussed at least as early as January 8th. Within a week, DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen had boasted that “even before Massachusetts and that race was on the radar screen, we prepared for the process of using reconciliation.” The events of this week show that Van Hollen was bluffing, which leaves the question on the table. How did Pres. Obama, Sen. Maj. Ldr. Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their staffs not have a contingency plan in place for a Brown win? Their membership is now beginning to wander all over the reservation, while pessimism and panic settle in.
All of the Dems who want to mock the defeated Martha Coakley for her political incompetence ought to be looking at their top leadership’s negligence at a crucial moment for their most cherished crusade. Those leaders may yet regroup. But this process has been one of the Dems’ near-religious fervor on this issue trumping public disapproval and the fact that the Dems lacked a consensus solution. That sheer political will is being sapped by the loss in Massachusetts. Unless their leaders can find that consensus solution soon, Democrats may find ObamaCare slipping from Undead to Dead.
Update: Less than an hour after I posted this — with all of its pingbacks to Josh Marshall and TPM, Marshall offered a new post:
Martha Coakley and her campaign have been roundly, mercilessly and rightly ridiculed for getting caught off guard by Scott Brown’s rapid ascent in the Massachusetts senate race. What’s the excuse of the White House and congressional leadership for having no plan in place for what to do if Coakley lost — a live possibility going back almost three weeks?
Hey, good question! And when asked by Josh Marshall, Democrats might start thinking about it.