Tag "congress"

As you’ve probably heard, a conservative judge in a federal district court struck down the individual mandate in the health care bill.  The basis for his decision is that, in his view, deciding not to purchase a product is not economic activity, and the federal government has no jurisdiction under the commerce clause.

A lot of the commentary I’ve seen has focused on the abstract argument of whether or not the federal government can “compel” you to buy a product.  This really isn’t an “economic freedom” thing as some people have tried to make it out to be; it’s more of a commerce clause vs police powers thing.  If you think about it, no one is filing suit to strike down auto insurance mandates in any state.  Massachusetts even has its own health care mandate, which has never been challenged successfully by anyone.  So all this faux-libertarian garbage about “freedom” can, and should, be dismissed out of hand.

What I’d really like to focus on is not so much the abstract debate about the scope of the commerce clause, but to take a step back and introduce a little perspective on what’s actually happening here.

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I think it’s pretty safe to say that any major legislation that hasn’t passed already is absolutely dead in the water. Cap and trade? Forget about it. Card check? No way. A second stimulus. Nope. And looking back, I’m really happy that health care reform passed when it did, because the Dems would have gotten clobbered either way. At least we still have that.

So what do we have to look forward to then?

The way I see it, the brand new House Republican majority has two basic options: punt or blitz.

In the punt scenario, the GOP can just sit back and quietly block any major pieces of Obama’s agenda, but not mount a serious fight against current legacy problems. No government shutdowns. No new major policy initiatives. No serious budget stare-downs. Just throw enough red meat at the base to keep them happy, but not enough to draw a bunch of attention to yourself (maybe some hearings on how Al Gore made up global warming).

In this scenario, the GOP would basically hope to survive 2012 by not taking ownership of what looks like a still pretty weak economy in 2012. Based on the latest Fed projections, we’ll still be looking at ~7.5% unemployment in two years, which might be enough to drag down Obama.

The problem with this strategy would be keeping the caucus in line. The class of 2010 has some pretty motivated freshman with Tea Party sentiments that may not want to sit on the sidelines while things drag on. If this is the path the GOP chooses, watch for a disgruntled GOP caucus stepping out of line here and there.

In the blitz scenario, the GOP would launch a major oppositional agenda and put it center stage, with big time fights between Speaker Boehner and President Obama dominating the media. This would be 1995 all over again. Budget showdowns and the whole kit and kaboodle (maybe even an impeachment!).

The problem with this strategy is it gives a clear foil for Obama, which he didn’t have during 2010. It was very hard for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans when they were in the majority. The thing to keep in mind is that the Republicans still are not very popular. This was more a “not-Democrat” wave than it was a Republican one. If the GOP serves its agenda up as a target it will get wrecked by Obama. In an Obama v. Boehner fight, I pick Obama every time.

So what’ll they choose? My money’s on punt, but I’m hoping for the blitz.

The real wildcard here is what Obama does in response. He can try to force the GOP into either of these roles.

The one thing that seems extremely unlikely is that there’s actually some meaningful compromises that happen on major policies during the 112th Congress. Not that I wouldn’t welcome it, but color me skeptical.

(Which is sad, by the way.)

The first real test of this will be the lame duck tax cut fight. If the GOP brings the noise and mounts a full blown fight creating an impasse, signs point to blitz. If they agree on a temporary extension, signs point to punt.

I can’t wait.

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This was classic Obama, and it’s really amazing and fresh.

Please take the time to watch it, or read it.

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Intitial first reactions:

  • I was surprised at how he captured the audience at the end.  You could hear a pin drop in those last paragraphs.
  • I loved the smack down on the Senate:

I know it’s an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together. This week, I’ll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. And I would like to begin monthly meetings with both the Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can’t wait.

  • I loved how he gave credit to the House for passing so many bills. It subtly highlighted how the Senate is responsible for so much gridlock
  • I would have liked a more detailed explanation of what is in the health care bill. It seemed like a great opportunity to clear up some confusion.
  • I was surprised when the Republicans didn’t stand for a lot of things in this speach. Reducing deficits? Tax cuts? Enforcing immigration laws? Really? You don’t like that?

I’d call it a success.

Now go check out Nate Silver’s list of House Democrats at risk of voting no on the Senate version of the health care bill. If you see your Representative, make a phone call.

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The thing that is so frustrating about talk a paring down the current Senate bill is that the Senate bill is already pared down.  We went through weeks and weeks of rubbing Ben Nelson’s and Joe Lieberman’s feet by getting rid of the public option, taxes on rich people, and any other good policy ideas that twinged an already raw nerve of “looking liberal.”

What we’re left with then is just basic insurance reform, which goes something like this:

  1. People are pissed that insurance companies are screwing them by claiming pre-existing condition exclusions.
  2. In order to stop (1), we ban this practice
  3. In order to accomplish (2) without people abusing insurance companies (i.e. get insurance when they get sick), we impose an individual mandate.
  4. In order to accomplish (3) without forcing poor people to go bankrupt buying health insurance they can’t afford, we provide subsidies to buy insurance.
  5. In order to pay for (4), we cut waste in Medicare and impose new taxes.

There’s really nothing here to take out, because it’s all related; you take out one, and all the cards fall.

It’s not just me saying this either.  Check with the experts:

“The idea of scaled back reform, and particularly of doing insurance reforms by themselves, is a fantasy,” says Richard Kirsch, director of the reform campaign Health Care for America Now. “The public wants to stop insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. You can’t do that without a mandate; you can’t do a mandate without subsidizing coverage; you can’t subsidize coverage without Medicare savings and new revenues. The public wants to end medical bankruptcies – but to do that you need to provide affordable coverage to people and you need to mandate decent insurance benefits and put a ban on annual and lifetime caps. Doing all that requires setting up exchanges and subsidizing coverage.”

Thankfully, President Obama sees things the same way:

If you ask the American people about health care, one of the things that drives them crazy is insurance companies denying people coverage because of preexisting conditions. Well, it turns out that if you don’t — if you don’t make sure that everybody has health insurance, then you can’t eliminate insurance companies — you can’t stop insurance companies from discriminating against people because of preexisting conditions. Well, if you’re going to give everybody health insurance, you’ve got to make sure it’s affordable. So it turns out that a lot of these things are interconnected.

Now, I could have said, well, we’ll just do what’s safe. We’ll just take on those things that are completely noncontroversial. The problem is the things that are noncontroversial end up being the things that don’t solve the problem. And this is true on every issue.

Where does that leave us?  It leaves us with 256 gutless, crybabies huddled in a corner.  No one but Congressional Democrats are so good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The path is simple.  Pass the bill.

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Some quick backstory:

In 1969, Fred Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts by President Nixon.

I was reading an article here regarding some relatively unknown facts about the late Fred Rogers, and was thinking to myself that “Man, this dude was a bad ass.”  I went looking for some video footage of Mr. Rogers speaking in front of Congress, and found the following footage.

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