Critical Condition

Kennedy Tactics

CBS News’s Political Hotsheet reports on “new resistance” to health-care reform, mainly coming from the Left. The piece is referring to, among articles, this morning’s Washington Post article about Senator Baucus’s attempts to win over Republicans by “blocking illegal immigrants from gaining access to subsidized insurance, urging limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and banning federal subsidies for abortion.” These measures may have some on the Left grumbling, but I think it’s likely that most members on the Left will still sign on to whatever package comes eventually makes it to the floor. For one thing, it will likely contain an individual mandate, expansion of Medicaid, and significant subsidies for the purchase of insurance. For another, from a political standpoint, President Obama and the Democrats need something to pass more than the Republicans need to stop something.

I suspect that much of the grumbling on the Left is in line with one of the late Senator Kennedy’s favorite tactics, which was to grumble loudly that a particular draft was far from what he wanted, but then to sign on to the final package, eagerly pocketing the legislative victory. Expect Democrats to do something similar if the package passes, by taking credit for the new policies, and then setting the stage for getting more the next time the issue comes up for debate.

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian and former White House aide. His latest book is Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.