Thursday, February 3, 2011

All for show

After the complaints from Republicans during the health insurance debate in 2009-10 that Democrats were shoving their bill down the people's throats, and that Democrats were rushing to deal with health care while ignoring more pressing economic needs, one would think that the Republicans would do things differently when they took charge. And they did.  Instead of holding hundreds of hours of committee hearings as the Democrats did on health care reform, the Republicans held none. Instead of making efforts to modify their proposals to attract the support of some members of the opposition party, they offered a straight repeal bill that could not obtain the support of a single Democratic Senator. Instead of days and days of debate, they rushed their bill through with virtually no debate.  Instead of putting forth any serious proposals to deal with continued high unemployment, they rushed to hold votes on health care legislation for which they knew they did not have the votes in the Senate to win.

So the Senate yesterday ended this futile effort by a party line vote of 51-47.  But Republicans should be grateful that the Democratic majority even allowed their repeal bill to the floor, considering how many House-passed bills were not even allowed to come to a vote in the Senate in the last Congress, because the Republican minority opposed even allowing these bills to come up for a straight up or down vote.

People can criticize the Obama administration for making too many deals and compromises in an effort to pass legislation. They can make the opposite criticism that the administration has pushed through some kind of radical, socialist agenda. People can say that the Obama team hasn't always sold its accomplishments as well as they might have, or people might explain the administration's struggles by noting that many of the Obama programs--especially the stimulus, the bailouts, and health care reform--have just not been very popular with a large segment of the population. But it would be hard to argue that the Obama administration has done anything just for show. Instead, its efforts have been directed at getting things done, popular or unpopular, compromised or not. The goal has always been to get as much done as possible.

The Republicans in Congress could learn something from watching the Obama administration at work, and from their own failed effort to repeal health care reform. Now that they have had their fun, and they can get whatever political advantage they can from being able to tell constituents that they fulfilled their promise to put repeal up for a vote, as well as being able to tell voters in 2012 that if they want to repeal health care reform, they will have to elect a Republican President and a few more Republican Senators, now is when they should consider rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on stuff that they might actually be able to get done.

(poster from Credo petition campaign)


  1. Aside from going to war, cutting taxes, preventing abortions, destroying time-tested regulatory structures, and appointing rightists to the Court, I cannot detect any meaningful Republican legislative agenda since Reagan. So once they roll up their sleeves, what exactly are they going to get to work legislating? After all, they have just about named every federal facility in the country after Reagan already.

  2. Don't forget the air craft carrier, Reagan! I thought you were laying out Obama's agenda -- of war and cutting taxes, and poor regulatory reform and letting Fannie and Freddie run amok and running monster deficits and kissing Wall Street's butt, Gitmo, domestic spying, etc -- until you mentioned the courts. And the Prez has done okay appointing to the Supremes.

  3. They're not going to stop at one or two votes. I look forward to repealing Obamakare... if the courts don't throw it out as being unConstitutional, which would be very ironic.

  4. Ironic indeed, because if the law were declared unconstitutional, that would make it more likely we will get Medicare for all, or some other form of true socialized medicine.

  5. I am not sure how this is going to play out but the Repubs do look like they have purpose. On February 2nd the Democratic Senate killed the 1099 tax reporting requirement that was part of health care reform. The Dems had defended it starting back in September. But after the November elections it became clear Republicans were and are going to make changes to the bill. So the Dems and Obama (in his SOTU address) took Nebraska senator Mike Johanns' bill and made it their own by altering a few words (Debbie Stabenow and Harry Reid). It's not a big deal that they took credit; because Repubs will need to continue to pressure Dems into helping dismember Obamacare if they are to be successful. Both parties will end up working together to make the bill better. The GOP will highlight each issue they have trouble with and then ask 2012 Dems what they are willing to defend. There is a lot going on that isn't just show.

  6. To be clear, I am in favor of both parties working together so that we end with a much better bill.

  7. Changes to 1099 reporting requirements are kind of a separate issue from health insurance reform, no? I understand that was part of the bill, and the business community did not like it, so they took it out. But it doesn't seem to have much to do with health care reform.

    Of course the health care act will be amended forever, but my point is that the whole repeal campaign is just for show. That campaign has nothing to do with any real effort to improve health insurance reform on a bi-partisan basis. It has everything to do with a Republican strategy to try to win control of the Senate and Presidency in 2012.

    As you know I'm all for new politics and bi-partisanship and all of that, but on this issue I have no confidence that, as you suggest, the parties will end up working together to make the law better. More likely, this will be a tug of war between the parties forever, with the Republicans pulling in one direction whenever they are in power, and the Democrats pulling in the other whenever they get the chance.

  8. The fact that 1099 reporting requirements were in the bill is but one example of the low quality of the bill.

    To your comments: if Dems are okay with saying that the efforts of the Repubs to undo and fix the bill is all show then I guess the Repubs could say that passing such a onerous bill was for show. I don't believe either is true. I am in favor of health care reform and I do think the bill was poorly pieced together -- some of it for political gain on the left. To date, that has not work out as well as they hoped. We will see if the Repub strategy works out any better.