Let the Democratic civil war begin.
Though there’s no official word yet, early indications based on talks with various officials are that the groups will either formally oppose the legislation or, less dramatically, just not fight very hard to ensure its passage.
Labor leaders are fuming at the concessions that Democratic leadership made in the last few days to win the support of the caucus’s most conservative members, notably Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.). A bill that already included one highly objectionable provision (a tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans) was stripped of a provision beloved by labor: a public alternative to private insurance coverage. Frustration boiled over even further after the leadership succumbed to Lieberman’s demand to jettison even the compromise to the public option — a proposal to expand Medicare to those as young as 55…
As one high-ranking labor official emailed the Huffington Post:
“What is really frustrating folks here is that it’s impossible to make and implement plans to pressure senators when the White House and Reid keep undermining the efforts no one from the outside can put any credible pressure on Senators because they know the White House will back that Senator up whatever they do. If the White House is going to cave to a Senator who spent the entire election campaigning with McCain and calling Obama a traitor how are we supposed to have any leverage over anyone?”
Needless to say, the bill’s never been closer to total collapse than it is now. If the unions say no, then at the very least House progressives will oppose a ping-pong strategy and demand a conference on the Senate bill; at best, we’ll see a few progressives like Feingold in the Senate decide they can’t go forward without a public option. Which means it’s either reconciliation or bust for Reid. A small suggestion for those who’ve been calling Blue Dogs like Nelson to urge them to oppose: Start calling liberals like Sanders and telling them that America deserves a strong, vibrant, robust public option. Stand strong, socialists!
As for other fronts of the civil war, here’s what my map shows. Lefties like Michael Moore and Rosa de Lauro blame the centrist Lieberman and want him recalled from office, even though, um, Connecticut has no recall procedure. Democrats like Gibbs and Jay Rockefeller who are desperate to pass a bill blame the liberal Howard Dean for rallying the nutroots at the eleventh hour to kill it. House Democrats blame the Senate for never getting anything done, with Pelosi now reportedly promising exposed Blue Dogs that she won’t make them take any more tough votes next year unless and until Reid has passed his half of each bill first. And Harry Reid … just sounds lost, frankly. Exit question one: How come so many liberals seem to want to do away with the Senate these days when it’s the Senate that more accurately reflects public sentiment right now than the House? Exit question two: Is NBC right? Is this Dean-o’s revenge on Obama?
Update: Start calling.
“I have real concerns with this bill as it stands right now,” Sanders told reporters Wednesday. “So I’m not on board yet. At this moment, I am an undecided,” he said. “We’re working hard to try to make this bill be a better bill. I would like to support it but I’m not there yet.”
Update: Ah, a new scapegoat emerges. And this time it’s The One himself.
“The president keeps listening to Rahm Emanuel,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). “No public option, no extending Medicare to 55, no nothing, an excise tax, God!” he exclaimed about the Senate health care bill to Roll Call. “The insurance lobby is taking over.”
Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), told Politico of Senate delays, “It’s ridiculous, and the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines. That’s nonsense.”*
While many House Democrats have expressed anger with the Senate for the watered-down bill, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) argued that it was really Obama who let centrists take control. “Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge?” he said. “It’s time for the president to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the president to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate.”
Memo to Weiner: The guy’s polls are in the toilet. Who’s he going to muscle at this point?
Update: Karl wonders what it’ll cost the Democrats to buy back labor’s favor. Card Check?