A couple of months ago I had written a harsh critique of the Democrats’ weak-kneed approach toward the health-care overhaul. I had held Obama and the Democratic leadership responsible for letting the national discourse degenerate to such levels that the American people had developed a distaste for the project itself.
While my criticism of democrats still holds true, it is time to give due credit and hail President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid for the extraordinary and monumental legislative victory that was accomplished yesterday.
However, as I reflect upon the developments over the last few months, one name deserves special mention and that is Sen. Scott Brown. The fact that we have a half-way decent health-care legislation is largely (and ironically) due to his electoral success.
Sen. Brown’s election punctured the much vaunted (though pathetically moribund) Democratic majority and set in motion a set of events that has now culminated in the passage of the health-care reform bill. Until the election of Sen. Brown some Democratic senators had developed a rather large head and were conducting themselves as though they were a power unto themselves. They had managed to not only scuttle the public-option but also managed to extract special concessions and largess for their own states. In short, they had demanded and gotten their pound of flesh (or pork). The health-care bill therefore was tainted by raw political avarice and there seemed to be no good way to cleanse it.
Then came the good people of Massachusetts who gave us Sen. Scott Brown and all of a sudden the wind was taken from the Democrats’ sails. Bereft of this “oooh-so-sexy super-majority” the Democrats had to get serious and goal-oriented. The question was how could they make lemonade out of the lemon they had been handed (or beaned with)?
The onus for progress shifted from the congress and to President Obama who courageously accepted the challenge. He spoke about it during the State of the Union address and asserted that Health-care reform was the right thing to do even if it is politically inconvenient or even lethal.
He met with Republicans and conducted a spirited defense of the Health-care reform. He organized and chaired a televised joint-session that lasted several hours to show the American public that the health-care bill, for all its defects, was not some sort of Red-Invasion, but rather a compilation of various ideas that are supported by both Democratic and Republican political ideologies. He therefore cast the rancour as bitter partisan bickering rather than substantive policy differences. He asked Republicans to not just accept the bill but participate in refining the things that needed refinement.
However, the Republicans chose to take the position that any kind of participation was tantamount to treason and rather than participate in the correcting the bill where necessary, they chose to reject ALL of it. It was now apparent that although the Republicans had some legitimate misgivings about some aspects of the bill their chosen course of action was to SCRAP IT ALTOGETHER.
Since there was no Republican participation, the Democrats had to do it by themselves and with very little wiggle room. This is exactly why they chose to take the route where the House would approve the Senate bill as-is and then erase its offensive elements via a reconciliation bill. In other words, the Democrats managed to not only get health-care reform enacted, they also managed to excise the unsavory parts from it via reconciliation.
This is the nicest outcome possible and it came about because Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election. Had it not been for his electoral victory, the democrats would not have found it necessary to:
- Speak with the Republicans and therefore also to us.
- Conduct ferocious internal negotiations to ensure that a sufficient number of lawmakers supported it.
- Design a reconciliation bill that would excise the unpleasant parts and thus make good on the promise to the house members who supported the reform bill contingent upon the passage of the reconciliation bill.
Of course, the process is not fully done. The Senate has yet to vote on the reconciliation bill and the Republicans are adamant on delaying the process and thus keeping alive the pernicious aspects of the current bill that they purport to object. It will take a bit of time to let the Republicans finish frothing at the mouth.
Anyway – my main point is that it is so ironical that the individual whose primary promise to his electorate was to be the 41st obstructionist, turned out to be the catalyst for this monumental piece of legislation. Thank you Sen. Brown.
The question I now have is: Now that the bill is enacted into law and the opportunity has come up to remove the objectionable elements, will at least the moderate faction of the Republican Senators rise to the occasion and ensure the passage of the reconciliation bill which aims to nullify the parts that they also object to? Or will the Republicans continue to go into prolonged epileptic seizures about “government takeover” and thus retain within the law, the exact list of items that they purport to find offensive.