The Corner

McConnell: Nelson ‘Made Himself Look Quite Foolish’

As Obamacare hurtles towards final passage in the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is casting a glance toward the House. If Harry Reid’s bill heads there, Democrats “have a choice,” McConnell tells NRO. “They can either have a conference or message back between each chamber to modify the bill. Either way, whatever they come up with will require 60 votes in the Senate again.” (McConnell is referencing what is known as a legislative “ping pong,” where the two chambers communicate without forming a conference committee.)

“Will the Left back down in the House?” wonders McConnell. “That’s the big question. Abortion language could be the snag in the path to final passage, if you listen to what the Blue Dogs and Congressman Stupak are saying.”

However the bill is hashed out, once it comes back to the Senate, “Democrats are going to have some interesting negotiations amongst themselves to see if they can square some of their differences,” predicts McConnell. “We won’t make it easy at any point.” Still, he admits, “the moment Specter went over, they had 60, so they can do anything they want to do if they stick together.”

Reid, McConnell says, “was open for business” throughout the Senate debate. “Just look at how he was trying to buy support.” Did Ben Nelson get bribed? “Well, he certainly got a special deal for Nebraska,” says McConnell. “It was a terrible deal for a guy who’s supposed to be pro-life. He wasn’t much of a negotiator. Just look at how his fellow senator and governor have denounced the deal. He made himself look quite foolish.”

Could Republicans have worked with Democrats on a bipartisan bill instead of unifying against it? “No,” says McConnell. “Did our members talk to them? You bet,” he says. “Even our more conservative members reached out, but they were not interested in writing a bill down the center.”

Come 2010, health care will continue to dominate American politics, says McConnell. “This fight isn’t over. It’s going to be a multi-cycle campaign issue. Many Democrats will be defeated over this. The landscape is shifting. We have an excellent chance of having the cavalry arrive next year. The Democrats will be more skittish. A substantial number of them will want to change the subject as rapidly as possible. [Health care] is a huge political loser for them. We’ve watched the surveys change, created a national debate, and laid out our differences in opinion. Our side didn’t go in the tank and make this a bipartisan bill. We showed that our opposition has a pulse.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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