Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

It’s Not Inevitable


There is not nearly enough belief circulating that Obamacare can be defeated in the coming weeks. The House clearly couldn’t have passed the Senate version of the bill. The Senate clearly couldn’t have passed the House version. And the blended (mostly Senate) version is going to be very ugly for somebody (in addition to the American people), most likely in particular for pro-life Stupak Democrats in the House, who are just over ten months away from facing reelection verdicts in (mostly) Republican districts.

Sen. Ben Nelson is now 31 percentage points behind in the polls and has become a lightning rod for Nebraskans who oppose Obamacare, eschew special privilege, and take pride in their patriotism and sense of fair play. Think he isn’t tempted to cast the one vote that could redeem him in their eyes? Think the Democrats haven’t noticed that likely voters oppose the bills by about 15 percentage points, that both seniors and independents — yes, independents — oppose the bills by margins of greater than two-to-one, and that the USA Today/Gallup poll shows that support for President Obama has plummeted since January from 83 percent to 49 percent (a 34-point drop!)? Think Indiana’s Evan Bayh, Virginia’s Jim Webb, North Dakota’s Kent Conrad, and hordes of red-state House Democrats are feeling comfortable?    No, the air of inevitability that the pro-Obamacare press is presenting needs to waft away and be replace with more realistic reports like the following:    Having passed separate versions of their highly unpopular health-care overhaul by the narrowest of margins (with a mere two votes to spare in the House and none in the Senate) — versions that were tailor-made for their respective chambers and designed to squeeze out the maximum number of votes in each — Democrats are now seeking to somehow, someway gain as many votes for a compromise version as they were able to gain for the respective tailor-made versions. Meanwhile, members are home interacting with their constituents, the clear majority of whom oppose the bills, often vehemently. Yet the Obama administration is expressing determination to move forward in spite of the long and perhaps insurmountable odds.

The question is: How much longer will individual Democratic members be willing to contemplate electoral suicide so that President Obama can imagine himself pictured in the history books next to FDR rather than Bill Clinton? And even if the Democrats can somehow squeeze their compromise legislation through both chambers in the face of strong public opposition, this question would still remain: Will the American people reward them with a return trip to Congress and the White House so that they can implement their overhaul sometime after the start of 2013?


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