Friday, November 6, 2009

Health Reform: Saturday Night Live! Or Dead!

On Saturday night by 8PM, Congress is slated to bring HR 3862 , the House Democratic Health Reform bill, to a floor vote. The final vote will determine if health reform, Democrat style, is dead or alive.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs 218 votes for passage. The 177 Republicans in the House will vote “No.” She can tolerate no more than 40 “No” Democratic votes. She knows among the 52 Conservative Blue Dogs and others, there are already 25 solid “”No” votes.

So it comes down to Pelosi and the Democrats holding on to 15 wavering House members.

Some conservative and moderate Democrats are dithering, a favorite word to describe the Obama administration these days, because of solid winning GOP governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey, polls showing only 42% support of Obamacare, a 10.2 percent unemployment rate, growing losses of the independent vote, the 25,000 member tea party in the Capitol buildings yesterday protesting the bill, and massive uncertainty about the public mood.

Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the WSJ, captured the mood best on November 3 in “Voters Are Desperate for Political Leadership."

“What was learned Tuesday is that the American voter is absolutely, totally, unremittingly disgusted with both political parties. More than anything, the American voter is desperate for political leadership.”

“Add another American metaphor to the political landscape: the cattle stampede. Independent voters across the U.S. have become like the massive cattle herd John Wayne drove from Texas to Kansas in "Red River." These voters are spooked and on the run, a political stampede that veered left in November 2008 and now right a mere year later. They will keep running--crushing incumbents, candidates and political models of the left and right--through November 2010 and onto 2012 until they find a person or party capable of leadership appropriate to our unsettled times. And yes, Virginia, the possibility of a man on a white horse in 2012 is not out of the question.”

Where will the stampede head in November 2010? In what political direction will the main voter herd bolt, if HR 2862 and Senate bill pass and are merged, and the cattle realize Obama has broken his campaign promises to reduce costs, not add to the deficit, not raise middle class taxes, and not lose coverage from existing plans?

Those are the questions facing center and center right Democrats on Saturday night. Will their swing vote hinge on whether voters perceive the government will subsidize abortion rights, take over health care the public option, crush state Medicare budgets, raise middle class taxes, and add the project $9 trillion deficit over the next ten years.

President Obama has weighed in for the bill and is waving the endorsement of the AARP and the AMA as evidence of the bill’s credibility. What he is not mentioning is the open rebellion among the ranks of the AARP, which has lost thousands of its members because of the threat of $500 billion in Medicare cuts, and the AMA, in which more state and coalition societies, representing more than 50,000 practicing physicians, have passed resolutions asking for the AMA to rescind its approval of the House Bill.

Saturday night we will know if H.R. 3862 is alive or dead. Unless, of course, Speaker Pelosi doesn’t have the 218 votes. Then the final vote will delayed until Pelosi can rustle up a few more votes by persuading reluctant Democratic members they will survive the November 2010 roundup.


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