Yesterday, I noted that approvals for the Democratic party in congress are nosediving and that this was probably because the party looks "scatterbrained" right now. Dems are all over the map on healthcare reform and party unity is pretty much non-existent. As a result, dem numbers have dropped from 62% in January to 49% now, according a new Pew poll. Democrats don't look much like a party right now, with infighting and disagreements over major points of reform splitting it down the middle.
But the Republican "hive mind" approach to governance is even less popular. During that same period, GOP numbers haven't budged -- up or down -- from 40%. And, to be absolutely honest here, if Democrats started doing the patented GOP lockstep, it'd freak me out a little. Let's face it, that "one party, one mind" thing is a bit creepy and cultish.
Still, it'd be nice if Democrats could at least agree on the broadstrokes. But some recognize that what we call a "healthcare system" is deeply, deeply flawed and in need of a drastic overhaul, while others say it's only a kinda-sorta problem and the system only needs a little tweak here and there. There is no fundamental agreement on even the scope or depth of the problem. And this morning, I have no idea which way we're going with this thing.
Some of us woke up today to see this story making the rounds:
...Some Democrats said Democratic researchers have concluded lately that a strong-arm tactic on Senate health care legislation that would negate the need for any GOP votes might be more effective than previously thought.
The strategy, called "reconciliation," allows senators to get around a bill-killing filibuster without mustering the 60 votes usually needed. Democrats control 60 of the Senate's 100 seats, but some moderate Senate Democrats have expressed reservations about the Democratic-backed health care overhaul plan.
While always contentious, reconciliation lets the Senate pass some measures with a simple majority vote. Non-budget-related items can be challenged, however, and some lawmakers say reconciliation would knock so many provisions from Obama's health care plan that the result would be "Swiss cheese."
Democratic aides say they increasingly believe those warnings are overblown.
Sounds as good as it does bad, doesn't it? Budget reconciliation is kind of a gamble and not as simple as some have made it seem. The idea would be to split the bill into two parts -- one that's entirely budgetary and one that's not -- and try to pass them both. It seems to me that a public option, being a government funded health plan, would be almost entirely budgetary -- after all, it's all about the government spending money -- so that might be one way to get it to pass. But the other bill could wind up pretty lousy, with poison pill amendments and bad policy ideas. Republicans would do what they always do; load it up with Republican provisions, then vote against it anyway.
All in all, reconciliation sounds like a bad idea. That is, unless you consider the other idea. While the reconciliation story may be the first thing some saw this morning, another story indicates almost the complete opposite.
Senate Democratic leaders and negotiators have recommitted themselves to a bipartisan healthcare deal, despite an August recess characterized by partisan sniping that prompted senior White House officials to consider a go-it-alone approach.
The renewed calls for patience and bipartisan talks have saved, at least temporarily, the healthcare debate from devolving into full-blown partisan chaos.
...Senate Democrats and Republicans at the center of the debate have said a deal can be salvaged.
A senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that Democratic leaders would prefer to advance a bipartisan bill through the Senate, instead of forcing it through using special budgetary rules.
Oh, for the love of... What the hell? Have they been listening to these guys lately? Many Republicans won't even vote for the lousy co-op idea; how can you possibly knock out a bipartisan agreement? And one of those "Republicans at the center of the debate" -- Chuck Grassley -- has been so two-faced in dealing with Democrats that he's become the posterboy for bad faith. Anyone with a freakin' brain knows he's just trying to undermine the process to the point where support for reform collapses.
I spend a lot of time cursing Harry Reid in this space for a reason. He's a seriously awful majority leader. I say it a lot because it's true, but Reid seems to believe it's his job to get bills passed unanimously. I don't think I've ever seen a senate leader who was so terrified of a fight. Especially with Republicans. In this case, Reid is actually willing to fight with fellow Democrats to avoid a fight with Republicans. A monkey could do a better job. In fact, a drunken monkey could do a better job.
And where's the president in all this? He says he hopes the final bill is bipartisan. Go ahead and fall over now.
On the bright side, Obama said he is "absolutely confident that we are going to get a bill, and I hope it's bipartisan." So the message here is "we're getting a bill, bipartisan or not." But the language is diplomatic. You're the leader, Mr. President. Of everything. Democrats control the house, the senate, and the White House and the President is the leader of his party. Now would be an excellent time to start telling people what to do.
Because everyone else clearly have no idea.
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