After last week’s disastrous health care summit for the President and his supporters, the left has been scrambling to save face and sell the public not on their plan, but on using the reconciliation process to jam it past the American people. They’ve simply given up on earning any form of widespread public support for the plan, which America has loudly rejected. In fact, the only bipartisan effort in Washington these days is against the Obama-Reid-Pelosi health care agenda. Large numbers of Democrats have joined Republicans doing everything they can to stop Obamacare in its tracks. Of course, this bipartisanship is strangely labeled obstructionism in today’s media environment.
So now, we have the last respite of the left, forcing their members to either take votes that could end their political careers or bypassing them altogether by only requiring 50 senators and the vice president to pass a bill. Judging from the weekend’s news, the leader of this back door movement is Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The Speaker took to the airwaves to vigorously defend the Democrat plan to pass their health care spending bill, regardless of the lack of Democrat support. Here are a few gems from the weekend:
Speaker Pelosi told CNN’s Candy Crowley on State of the Union: “No, I don’t think…there isn’t a bill. When we have a bill, which we will in a matter of days, then that is the bill that we can sell.” The fact that there isn’t a bill must come as a surprise to the House members who narrowly passed their plan in the middle of the night on November 8, 2009. At the time, Pelosi said: “Oh what a night.”
It must also come as a surprise to the U.S. Senators who narrowly passed their version just after dawn on Christmas Eve. And it must also come as a surprise to President Obama who last week released an outline of proposed changes to the Senate bill which everyone in Washington presumes is the baseline for the continued debate. In fact, there are currently two bills being considered by the Speaker, the Senate bill which needs a vote in the House and the reconciliation amendment which yes, hasn’t been drafted yet.
Speaker Pelosi would like to presume the American people have missed the last year of debate and are unfamiliar with their plans. However, the American public are very well informed of the Democrat plan, and as Candy Crowley rightly pointed out: “We looked at our polling numbers, just from yesterday, we had almost three-quarters of Americans who said they need to drop this bill…”
Also on State of the Union, Speaker Pelosi said: “A bill can be bipartisan without bipartisan votes.” Simply saying as your bill represents the views of your opponents, despite them arguing otherwise, does not make a bill bipartisan. This rose colored view of consensus ignores the opposition to this bill from Democrats themselves. To avoid reconciliation in the Senate, Democrats would only need to convince one single Republican to vote with their caucus. Unfortunately, they don’t even have the full support of their own caucus to reach 59 votes. Reconciliation — using 50 Senators and Vice President Biden to use a budget procedure to pass the bill — would disenfranchise Democrats in the Senate as well as Republicans.
Knowing well that American families at Tea Parties across America have articulated the growing consensus against Obamacare better than anyone, Speaker Pelosi said: “We share some of the views of the tea partiers in terms of the role of special interest in Washington, D.C.” Oh, how far we’ve come. It was only last year that she accused this grassroots groundswell of being an “AstroTurf,” or fraudulent movement. She said: “They’re carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town hall meeting on health care.”
Finally, we have recognition by the Speaker that the vote will be one that could be politically costly for Democrats. Pelosi told Elizabeth Vargas on ABC’s This Week: “We’re not here just to self perpetuate our service in Congress.” Of course, nothing is more costly than the number of sweetheart deals the Speaker will need to create to buy support, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) previously did in his chamber.
Speaker Pelosi is clearly optimistic that with the right amount of arm-twisting and legislative trickery, the left can salvage their health care agenda. She should transfer that optimism to her view of the American people. They’ve read her plan. They understand her plan. And they may forgive her if she tables it and starts over as three quarters of Americans are demanding.
You can follow Rory Cooper on Twitter @rorycooper