Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Few Things Weighing Against Health Care Passage

Keith Hennessey has updated his projections for health care and the odds of passage have gone up considerably. Still, there are a few factors weighing against, in his opinion, that I found interesting:
  • The vote margins are razor thin. If two House Democrats or one Senate Democrat believe their previous aye vote will cost them their seat this November, there could be a huge problem. The average level of support among Democratic members is irrelevant. What matters is how the most nervous Members who previously voted aye will vote. Speaker Pelosi has little margin for error. Leader Reid has none.
  • (Democratic) Members are back home in their States and districts. We have no idea what they are hearing from their constituents. Will any of these Members return to DC and feel they need to “correct” their previous aye vote? We know that national polling says these bills are unpopular, but what matters is the direct pressure felt by Members from their constituents, and how that pressure affects the behavior of those Members. There was a huge tidal effect in August, which the President stemmed with his early September speech. Now I think it is the biggest and most important unknown.
  • Why are they moving so slowly? Friends are telling me there is little serious work being done this week, even at the staff level. This gets harder the longer it takes, because interest group influence and outside political pressure have time to build and force Members to make demands: “I can vote aye only if you do X.”
  • When Congress left town by December 24th, health care was maybe #3 on the Washington/national issue agenda, behind economy/jobs and the deficit. In less than two weeks, terrorism and Democratic retirements have reshaped the Beltway narrative, pushing health care down further. This is quite unusual, and it’s astonishing that reshaping 1/6 of the economy isn’t the top agenda item, but that appears to be the developing inside-the-Beltway reality. I think that makes it slightly harder to pass a bill, but it could push in either direction.
  • Congressional Republicans have been surprisingly energized and effective.
Jennifer Rubin mentions "involuntary retirement" as a potential factor influencing the final vote
In the day-to-day scuffle inside the Capitol domes, Reid, Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel may seem very important to the lives of lawmakers, but the ones who really matter are back home. For them, ObamaCare is not only objectionable on its own terms; it is also symbol of what they don’t like in Washington — corruption, backroom deals, and disregard for average Americans’ views and values (e.g., the right not to be forced to buy insurance you don’t want or can’t afford).

Perhaps the stampede to the congressional retirement home or the polls will finally register with some incumbent Democrats. If not, that’s why there are elections.
 The odds  are long against stopping this disaster but you never know.  We can also hope a good strong wind pushes Scott Brown to victory:
Ebullent and with a local accent that reminded me of my late friend Dean Barnett, Brown made clear he's gotten used to being an underdog. But he's also a man who's won six contested races and who garnered more votes than Obama in his district last year. He indicated that his race is neither clearly nationalized nor focused exclusively on local issues. He made clear he would indeed be that 41st vote against the current version of health care before the Senate, and that he wanted the chamber to "go back to the drawing board." He expressed pride that in all of his years in the state legislature, he's never voted for a tax increase.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. I hope people do wake up and smell the coffee.


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