Massachusetts Fallout

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.


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Where is Lyndon Johnson when we need him.

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

The fucking Republicans never had even close to 59 Senate votes during Bush, and they passed EVERY FUCKING PIECE OF MAJOR LEGISLATION BUSH FLOATED (except immigration reform)!! The Democratic Party is seriously pissing me off right now. What a pack of pathetic fucking losers.

They are that skinny fucking dweeb on the beach getting sand kicked in his face on the inside back cover of Spider Man comic books.

In addition to not passing immigration reform, Bush was unable to pass his biggest piece of legilation proposed, the privitization of social security. Given that that privitization was going to be his major legislative goal, Bush only was able to pass minor legislation that had bipartisan support such as No child left behind (championed by the late Senator Kennedy).

I didn't realize that the Patriot Act, DOMA, FISA, etc.. were considered 'minor' legislation.

DOMA was passed by Clinton in 1996.

Compared to the big changes that the privitization of social security would bring, yes I would consider those more minor. Especially now seeing how Obama supports FISA and most of the Patriot Act.

What do we do now? I think the democratic process is thoroughly broken. It seems to me the Founders built it under two assumptions: 1) That the electorate were well educated, capable of critical thinking, and engaged in the political process and 2) That while any one branch of government might be subject to corruption and/or lunacy, at least one of the other two branches would be populated with rational and committed individuals. There may have been a third assumption of a vibrant and effective media that honestly reported on the state of the republic.

In any case, none of these are true anymore. So where do we go from here? Honestly, I've given up on any real positive change in my lifetime. My fear though is I will live to see the complete unraveling of the U.S. into some third world corpro-fascist un-nation.

Sorry to sound so hysterical. It's just that I had some hope of 2009 being better than 2008. I wasn't some starry eyed Obama fan who thought it was going to be all peace, love and ponies. I didn't expect Medicare for all. But I did expect a substantive difference between the Obama admin and the Bush admin. I did expect a substantive difference in the way Congress worked with a Democratic majority.

I was wrong on all counts and it looks like 2010 is going to be as bad if not worse than 2009. I am really depressed.

Yeah, I was wrong about DOMA. Not sure why I thought that, but I stand corrected.
Two things though. First, being more minor than the privatization of social security does not make it minor. Compared to the naming of a government building, its pretty major. Second, Obama's support of FISA and most of the Patriot Act have nothing to do with how major or minor a piece of legislation is. There are many arguments in favor of both but I don't think any of those arguments would try to assert that they were not major changes to the constitution.

Compared to the big changes that the privitization of social security would bring, yes I would consider those more minor. Especially now seeing how Obama supports FISA and most of the Patriot Act.

What drug are you on and where can I get some?

The Patriot Act a "minor" piece of legislation? It gutted the fucking Constitution and our civil liberties!!! And the FISA bill authorized domestic spying. The fact that Obama cravenly reversed his opposition and supported the bill for political reasons does not make it uncontroversial or minor.

And you're forgetting the most important legislation that Bush was able to pass with the support of the cowardly, spineless Democrats (who, IIRC had a majority in the Senate at the time) - the authorization to use military force in Iraq. That's hardly minor.

By roadrider (not verified) on 20 Jan 2010 #permalink

You are right, the terms minor and major were a mistake that I tried to use. A better term would have been bipartisan vs partisan. Bush was able to pass legislation that had bipartisan support (Patriot ACT, No child left behind, etc) and failed to get many partisan acts passed such privitization of social security.

In 1998, the Dems won several seats in the GOP-controlled Congress due largely to the Clinton Impeachment screamfest. Did the Republicans wait until Jan99 for the new Dem legislators?

HELL NO! The pushed through the impeachment trial just for fun-- they knew they couldn't convict Clinton, but they sent their base of voters a loud and clear message: WE stand on Principle!…

The Dems have no principles. They are a disgrace. What is Webb, Reid and Obama gonna tell the single mom who works with no health insurance at the next election? What about the Harvard study that said 45,000 Americans die every year due to a lack of health insurance? I suppose they are expendable for "democratic principles."

What we need in this country is a good ol' fashion class war.

Barney Frank is your hero? Dude... You have serious issues to be worked out with a therapist. Oh well, my hero is Sarah Palin. I guess every dog like a bone of a different flavor.

By Palinator (not verified) on 20 Jan 2010 #permalink

As long as the proposed legislation has only partisan support, I call Federalist No. 10:

"Among the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction."

The health care system is broken and should be fixed. But the reform policy should not be decided "by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority".

I say this as a firm Obama supporter.

True, the veto powers held by various arms of government make the process of reform inefficient.

One price you pay for freedom is inefficiency.

With all due respect, 59 Senators, a House majority and a President cannot be characterized as a "faction." Unless, as Jason has opined, a plurality of these representatives are secretly relieved that the health care bill is dying because they feel that it would be difficult to defend at the next election.

Where to go now? The status quo will bring health costs up to 20% of GDP with 50 or 60 million uninsured. You are correct, it obviously has to get worse before anyone has the political will to fix it.

Barney Frank is your hero? The guy who helped bankrupt Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and strong-armed the TARP bank bailout through Congress? Barney Frank is a tool. If health care reform were beneficial to Wall Street, it would pass easily.

"Founders built it under two assumptions: 1) That the electorate were well educated, capable of critical thinking, and engaged in the political process"

Actually, not really--they invented the Electoral College because they didn't think that.

I voted in that election. Martha Coakley ran a terrible campaign. I voted for the person who represent my political philosophy, the democratic. A very dull uninspiring candidate with as checkered history as a district attorney. Democrats were very lazy. That and the constant din of AM radio misinformation turned a lot of elderly people against the Democrats. They were fearful the the health care bill would reduce their Medicare coverage. It is silly to think of Republicans as the savior of MEDICARE, but that is how they portrayed themselves. I think reopening the debate and bill to Republican Participation is a good thing. If they are obstructionist who refuse to participate,then they can be portrayed as the bad guys, a win for Democrats. I suspect given their ability to be fools, this is what will happen. Hopefully Americans will then see them as they are intolerant partisan politicians. As for the new senator, if he refuses to engage with democrats, I suspect he will never see a full term.

And remember, the Senate was designed to represent the several states, as entities to themselves. It was only the 17th Amendment (in 1913) that changed that. The whole point of the government that was designed by the Constitution was to be stronger than the Articles of Confederation, but not too much stronger. Having lived under a government abominable enough to go to war over to shake off, they probably thought the best national government was the one that governed least. Think of the most wild-eyed libertarian today to get an idea of what the FF would be advocating (no standing army, no police force that we would call police today, a small navy, no direct income taxes, etc.)

And the first President after the 19th Amendment? Warren G. Harding, because he was a pretty boy. He is widely considered to be one of the most corrupt presidents, along with U.S. Grant. Come to think about it, the three times the vote has been extended, the first presidents elected were U.S. Grant (15th), Warren Harding (19th), and Richard Nixon (26th). That's not exactly a stellar record, there. Now, I'm not saying that suffrage should be limited to land owning adult white men. The consequenses of that rollback are just way, way, way too bad to accept. But when political leaders are basically those who win a popularity contest, I'm not too surprised that the results are as bad as they are.

By Shawn Smith (not verified) on 21 Jan 2010 #permalink

Comrade PhysioProf,

They have a shot for rabies, you know. I recommend making an appointment at the health center of your podunk university. (I can only assume you are affiliated with a podunk university, unless you are the beneficiary of a affirmative action program for raging morons.)

By Robert O'Brien (not verified) on 21 Jan 2010 #permalink

I believe anyone who thinks the vote in Massachusetts was to elect a crazy right winger is foolish.The folks in Massachusetts are solid democrats! Most not all academics are anti-capitalist. I am a believer in jobs, growth, science and technology. This write up by Rosenhouse is another example of the Bolshevik Jew social democracy that had the Germans marching them to the ovens because they had no guns, guts or sense of patriotism. The Swiss all are armed? Why because they know "might is right".
One of the main reasons Coakly lost was the black minorities would not go out to vote for a white women. They stayed home awaiting a welfare check. Also, Scott Brown took all the suburbs except Boston, Providence town and Springfield. Guess what? Minorities did not go out to vote nor did the illegal's. As one proud former resident of South Boston I say to the Professor "go read Ayn rand" and "get a grip". In the coming November elections there is going to be a massacre of democrats-the new independents have spoken and you need to smell the coffee prof. By the way the past comments put down with profanity and large type does not further your cause. Remember Rosenhouse would be last to don a miliary uniform and probably couldn't even fit in a fox hole. By the way Prof Rosenhouse even the blacks will turn on you! IMHO Again, read Ayn Rand and get a reality check - otherwise look to another depression fool.

By Pete Gould SGM R (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

In one of my favorite movies, âRegarding Henry,â Harrison Ford plays an ambitious, callous, and, at times unethical Manhattan attorney who is shot during a convenience store robbery. He survives but is initially unable to move or walk and he suffers a total loss of memory. As his firm takes away his old assignments and essentially assigns him only busy work, he finds it difficult to remain a lawyer. In one scene his secretary asks if he would like cream in his coffee and when he says âyesâ she tells him to say âwhen.â After he allows the cream to run over his coffee cup she advises him that he needs to say when he has had âenough.âIâm not certain if âObamacareâ was the straw that broke the camelâs back but I believe the taxpaying, voters of Massachusetts spoke with a clear voice to âcreeping socialismâ in the recent election to fill the Senate seat vacancy created by Teddy Chappaquiddick Kennedyâs death. They simply said âENOUGH!â

By Wallace L. Snyder (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

It's pretty obvious from what I've read here that nothing I could say would ever change your minds -- about creation (just another name for the Big Bang), or about healthcare and the Oblaba administration. There is an obvious connection between the two. We are "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights." If you guys cannot see that the only thing the Democrats care about is CONTROL, the LIMITING of those rights, then you are about as blind as it gets. That having been said, thanks for listening, and have a great day ! Really !!

By Curt Fletemier (not verified) on 25 Jan 2010 #permalink

No way! A Southy bigot!? I'm shocked.

They have a shot for rabies, you know. I recommend making an appointment at the health center of your podunk university. (I can only assume you are affiliated with a podunk university, unless you are the beneficiary of a affirmative action program for raging morons.)