The Campaign Spot

What Are the Democrats Willing to Risk to Pass Health Care Legislation?

D.J. McGuire, running the risk of contradicting me while running for office, takes issue with my NRO piece on whether Democrats might find passing health care worth losing their majority.

His dissent is worth reading, but I would quibble with two points. He says Mickey Kaus’s impeachment parallel is flawed, arguing that “Two years later, in the first chance the voters had to send the Republicans packing for the supposedly unpopular post-midterm-election impeachment, the House GOP lost one seat from their January 1999 numbers, and preserved their majority for another half-dozen years.” Yes, but the impeachment was in January 1999, the election was November 2000, and the country had moved on to new issues in the interim two years. I suppose it’s possible to imagine a scenario where this health-care legislation doesn’t have much impact on the 2010 elections — another terrorist attack, or a double-dip recession — but right now, it seems like a safe bet that this health-care effort will be at least a pretty big issue in next year’s midterms.

As for whether the current situation, including Democrats’ willingness to risk their majorities, parallels 1994, my sense is that the current crop of Democrats are more liberal that the 1993–94 batch, but I’m going to have to go look that up in terms of ACU ratings, etc. I think it’s safe to say that the Obama administration is at least a bit more liberal in its thinking and goals than the Clinton administration was.

An editor at a publication that follows Congress closely offers a half-assent: “Guys like [David] Wu can take on some of their angry constituents, because they get 60 percent of the vote every two years. They might be willing to lose for the cause. Or, they just might be reasoning that winning with 52 percent is still winning, so what the hell. The larger point, I think, is not that some of these guys are willing to lose for the ‘greater good,’ but that Nancy Pelosi is perfectly willing to sacrifice some of them — particularly the Blue Dogs — for her greater good. When push comes to shove, if they have the votes, they’ll pass the bill, with or without the Blue Dogs, and to the electoral detriment of many of them. That’s a trade I guarantee you Pelosi would make.”

UPDATE: CQ: “The outspoken, sometimes rowdy opposition at town hall meetings this month so far isn’t causing many congressional Democrats to back away from plans to pass sweeping health care overhaul legislation this year. Interviews with about a dozen Democratic House members reveal they think a lot of the loud criticism they have encountered over the August recess has been ginned up by Republicans, conservative commentators or groups spending large sums of money to try to derail President Obama’s top legislative priority. In most cases, the noisy opposition has only firmed up the Democratic members’ determination to get a bill done this year.”

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