Republicans have made a good case against the Democrats’ health-care bill, and they have offered a decent alternative. But given the majorities enjoyed by Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate, Republicans can do only so much. The minority whip, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, has promised that not a single Republican will vote for the monster of a bill that Democrats are pushing through the House. But Republican party discipline is not the magic bullet that will stop Obamacare. What’s needed is a few good Democrats — either moderate “Blue Dogs” who are experiencing some queasiness about the size, scope, and radicalism of the Obama-Pelosi program, or those with specific concerns about the proposed legislation, including its trillion-dollar price tag, its forced subsidy of abortion, and its insistence upon disrupting insurance arrangements with which American families are satisfied.
The health-care vote will tell us a lot about what America is and what it is to become: a nation with a limited government, a robust market economy, and a tradition of moderate reform, or a European-style social democracy. Secondarily, it will tell us much about who is really running the Democratic party, and whether that party will continue on its road to radicalism or return to its sensible, centrist roots.
With that in mind, it is worth noting that topmost in the minds of many House Democrats is the truly shocking expense of Obamacare. The current best estimates put the price at $1.3 trillion over the next ten years; if Medicare and Medicaid are any example, though, the costs could run many times that figure. Though the inevitable last-minute wrangling will find some minds changing, Democratic Representatives Arcuri, Giffords, Himes, Rodriguez, and Schrader all have expressed reservations about that whopping price tag. Oregon Democrat Schrader, to take one example, is under pressure from the SEIU and allied leftist groups to knuckle under to Pelosi and salute whatever flag she runs up the pole. How he breaks will tell us something about who is really calling the shots in today’s Democratic party. Representative Arcuri has expressed sober concerns that the gigantic new tax burden that will be imposed by Obamacare will hurt manufactures in his constituency of Utica. The SEIU stands to reap a financial windfall from Obamacare, but upstate New York manufacturers will be kneecapped by new taxes. Whose interests will the Democrats embrace, and whose will be cast aside?
A particularly ugly aspect of Obamacare is its insistence that Americans be forced to subsidize abortion — there’s not even an opt-out for those who have conscientious objections to the practice. In the past few elections, Democrats have made a big show of recruiting candidates such as Bobby Casey of Pennsylvania, who is at least nominally pro-life. Besides Representative Stupak, the strongest of the pro-life voices, the Democrats who are said to have some reservations about forcing their constituents to finance abortion include Representatives Boccieri, Boswell, Carney, Costello, Cuellar, Driehaus, Kanjorski, Kildee, Lipinski, Mollohan, Oberstar, Rahall, and Wilson. Representative Cuellar probably does not want to go home to Laredo and explain that his party is forcing his constituents to write checks to Planned Parenthood, and he’s also in a good position to appreciate that tort reform has done great things for his state — achievements that would be endangered by all the gifts to trial lawyers packed into this bill. Representative Kanjorski has been an important voice on the abortion aspects of the bill, and you can be sure that no effort is being spared to bully him or buy him off.
Another group of Democrats prominent in this debate includes those who believe that the “public option” — the government-run insurance program — is too big and too intrusive. It will also force private insurers to compete against the government, putting them at an incredibly unfair disadvantage. This fact is not lost on those Democrats with insurance companies headquartered in their districts. Equally important, the public option will probably cost many American families their current health insurance as employers bend to financial incentives to dump their health-care expenses into the laps of taxpayers. Representatives Baird, Bean, Cardoza, Chandler, Kagen, Markey, Michaud, Snyder, Space, and Teague are among those who have expressed these reservations. Rep. Scott Murphy has been treated to the presence of a rent-a-mob at his district office because of his hesitance to fall in line behind Nancy Pelosi. The vote will tell whether he will hold the line or toe it.
There are other ways to reform health care. There are more sensible, market-based, moderate approaches — and, more important, there is no need to pack every reform into one sweeping bill, larded up with special favors and irresponsible spending, that will radically remake the American economy and health-care system. Radicalism may be in fashion in Nancy Pelosi’s district and in the salons in which Barack Obama was educated, but it may be less so in south Texas, rural Ohio, northeastern Pennsylvania, western Colorado, and other places where Democrats will have to face the voters again soon enough. Let us hope that enough of them are willing to show some restraint — and to put the national interest over President Obama’s ambitions — that they are able to put the brakes on this mess before we go any farther down this road.