Here’s a prominent Democratic congressman commenting on the effect of the Massachusetts Senate race on health care reform:
I have two reactions to the election in Massachusetts. One, I am disappointed. Two, I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in Congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results.
If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate healthcare bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate.
I am hopeful that some Republican senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of healthcare reform because I do not think that the country would be well-served by the healthcare status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a healthcare bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened.
Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the Senate rule which means that 59 votes are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the healthcare bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of this process.
Some Blue Dog pseudo-Democrat? No. That was Barney Frank, one of my heroes in the Congress.
I give up. Can you imagine any Republican talking about respect for Democratic procedures, and arguing to scuttle a major piece of legislation based on an election in one state? Scott Brown won by roughly 100,000 votes. Do 100,000 Massachusetts voters get to decide policy for the rest of the country? Forty million Americans don’t get health care because of a small majority in one state? What’s democratic about that? And how can Frank even muse about talking to Republicans? They have adopted a policy of complete obstructionism, using every anti-democratic procedural gimmick they can find, and they are being rewarded for it at the ballot box. Does Frank think the solution is to be even more craven, and even less robust in defense of progressive ideals?
A majority of Massachusetts voters just said they want the crazy right-winger to represent them, as opposed to someone who would mostly have voted along progressive lines. Yes, yes, Coakley was a weak candidate guilty of one gaffe after another, but at some point you have to concede the obvious. You can’t look at what happened in Virginia, New Jersey and now Massachusetts and pretend that the Republican victories are simply the result of stronger candidates and local issues. The fact is that the Republican scream machine, aided by a docile media and spineless Democrats, have convinced a great many people of the basic right-wing narrative: That the Democrats are ignoring the economy so that the government can take over the health care system and spend us into oblivion. There comes a time when you must acknowledge that the voters are not just helpless puppets, swayable to your side if you just find the right argument or message.
Of course, Frank is hardly the only one prostrating himself:
The Senate won’t take further action to pass a final health care bill before Senator-Elect Scott Brown (R-Mass.) takes his seat, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday.
“We’re not going to rush into anything,” Reid said at a press conference following the Senate’s weekly caucus lunches. “We’re going to wait until the new senator arrives before we do anything more on health care.”
Across the Capitol, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday that Congress could pass health care in the roughly two weeks before Brown is seated and Democrats lose their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate. But that time will mostly be spent focusing on job growth, Reid said.
The Republicans would not hesitate to ram their agenda through, and then defend it with froth and vigor at the next election. But no, the same feckless Harry Reid who won’t lift a finger to change the Senate rules, who won’t even take elementary steps to make life more difficult for the Republicans in their obstructionism, is now bending over backward to allow the Republicans to kill the health care bill.
And here’s the big dog himself:
President Barack Obama is telling Democrats not to “jam” a health care overhaul bill through Congress, instead urging them to coalesce around popular parts of the bill.
In an interview with ABC News, Obama said Wednesday that Congress must wait for newly elected Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to be sworn into office before lawmakers move forward.
Game, set and match. Of course, it was never really in the cards that the House would just pass the Senate version of the bill, but now here is Obama to tell them not to bother anyway.
Of course, there is a subtext to all this. Rather a lot of Democrats are perfectly happy to use the Massachusetts Senate race as an excuse to abandon the bill. Proper health care reform was rendered impossible by right-wing Democrats beholden to the insurance industry. The question was whether to pass a bad bill that nonetheless moved the ball in the right direction, or to pass nothing at all. Plenty of Democrats are very happy to see this bill die, looking forward to their next election, where they can engage in their favorite activity of pretending to be Republicans.
The bigger picture is this. This country is beyond having problems to having outright crises. There is no public will to do anything serious about them. Polling in Massachusetts has shown that people felt the Democrats have been so distracted by health care that they have not adequately “focused on the economy.” That soaring health care costs are a big part of our economic woes, that the health care bill would actually have lowered the deficit according to the CBO, and that Obama staved off a depression with the stimulus package, the bank bailouts, the restructuring of the auto industry, and massive extensions of unemployment benefits, are apparently considerations beyond the abilities of many voters.
The Republicans are perfectly happy to see things going in the same direction as the last eight years. Their voters, after all, are primarily people who are doing fine in the present economy, and others who have been voting against their economic interests for years. A majority of Democrats understand the problems we face and have many good ideas for solving them, but they will not defend them vigorously, and mostly spend their days moping about the screamers on the other side.
So now Obama will become the second coming of Clinton. An idealistic but naive politician, who, having been rebuffed early in his term, will spend the rest of his administration tinkering around the edges and staving off the worst excesses of the other side. Not exactly change we can believe in.