Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Four Senators Standing Between Us And Real Health Care Reform

TPM's Brian Beuler has an awesome post looking at the lead douche bags that are threatening to filibuster a health care bill that includes the public option. And they are...
Joe Lieberman

Lieberman may be the trickiest of the four to secure. The moment Reid announced he'd included a public option in the Senate bill, Lieberman charged out of the gate to announce that he'd filibuster a health care bill with any kind of government plan in it: opt-out, opt-in, triggers--you name it. Immediately, speculation began to fly regarding what, exactly, had animated Lieberman, who after all represents a blue state whose voters support the idea. Some believe his gambit is rooted in his 2006 split with the party, and his 2008 decision to campaign for the McCain-Palin ticket. Others believe he's gotten too cozy with the insurance industry, which still has a heavy presence on Connecticut. Unexplored is the possibility that he--already a black sheep in Democratic politics--was simply giving his centrist friends cover. Those centrists--profiled below--would like a Republican (a.k.a. Olympia Snowe) to vote for this bill, too, and the only way to assure that her preferences receive maximum attention is to signal, clearly, that at least one Democrat isn't on board with the plan. Whether orchestrated or not, that person is Lieberman. He's been the most adamant against the public option of any of his peers.

Blanche Lincoln

Lincoln was cautiously supportive of the public option throughout most of the summer. In fact, on the day she announced her intent to filibuster a"government-run" insurance option, her website, embarrassingly, still boasted of her support for the very measure she was threatening to obstruct. What explains this curious mixed message? Unlike Lieberman, Nelson, or Landrieu, Lincoln is facing a tough re-election right now. She's going to be attacked for supporting a "government takeover" of health care no matter what, and would like to present her conservative constituents with a scalp to prove she didn't roll over for the liberals in her party. It's an immediate political calculation. Getting her on board will require convincing her she stands more to lose by blocking the provision than by allowing a vote on it.

Ben Nelson

Nelson, as I've noted before, is simply the most conservative Democrat in the caucus. He wants the bills he votes for to have Republican supporter(s), and he always prefers the option that liberals in the party don't: less stimulus over more stimulus, triggers over the public option, opt-in over opt-out. Nelson held out for a long time before agreeing to debate the bill this past weekend. It's conceivable that the prospects of failure down the line will make the pressure on him and other conservative Democrats so great that he'll agree not to filibuster. But, again, if Lieberman sticks to his guns, the compromise might just happen anyhow.

Mary Landrieu

Landrieu has been extremely candid about her reluctance to support a public option. Her constituency is very broad, she's mindful of the warnings of industry, she has leverage, and she's using it. But...she was just re-elected. It's almost inconceivable that her vote on health care in late 2009/early 2010 will matter very much when she's up for re-election in 2014. Strictly on political terms, she should be a company Democrat right now, though it's unclear if the political consideration is all that's driving her decision-making on the issue.
While you never know just how seriously to take their douchiness, I'm pretty sure I can think of a few things that might convince even the biggest assholes to do the right thing.

First off are the easy ones, Lieberman and Lincoln. Do they like being the chairs of powerful committees? They Do? Then I'm guessing they won't like being stripped of their chairmanships for joining the Republican obstruction of major Democratic legislation. Being a committee chair is a privilege not a right, and it would be insane to waste those positions on people who won't even cast procedural votes with their own party.

To get Ben Nelson, all you need is some meaningless bullshit for the insurance industry. He wants cover for his vote, but he's not going to get it. For a reminder of how strong his principles are, this is the man opposed the stimulus, cut 100 billion dollars out for literally no reason whatsoever and then strongly supported it. He wants to look "moderate", and he wants some goodies for the industries that own him. It doesn't seem like this would be too difficult.

Looking at everyone's situation in this group, Landrieu could be the biggest douche of them all. Since she's not up for reelection till 2014, and it seems like she's just trying to leverage for as much as she can get for her vote. Harry Reid should make it clear that if she plans on doing this for every vote 5 years away from an election year, she can plan on never getting any help from the leadership on anything ever again.

And just to be clear, the White House can apply pressure here too. They've done it before, only on freshman representatives who didn't want to vote for the war supplemental. It would be nice to see them whipping shitty members on a good bill for a change.

For both Reid and the White House, I'm not sure what's stopping them from going all in with the arm twisting and threats. If not now on your biggest piece of legislation, then when? It's also not like any of this posturing is anything resembling "principled opposition" either. They've all changed their stance on these issues dozens of times already, and they've probably got a few more in them before the last vote.

It's worth repeating that if these Senators followed through with their threats, they would be joining with Republicans to obstruct legislation that is wanted by a large majority of their party.

That literally makes them no different than a Republican, and of zero value to the Democratic party going forward. I would gladly support primary challengers or 3rd party challengers that would take them out of office. If there are no repercussions for this type of behavior from either their constituents or the party leadership, it will only get worse.

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