Politicians are paranoid about re-election. And the current contender manifestation of that paranoia is the plan by Members of the House who apparently believe that they can keep themselves from harm by avoiding separate votes on the two parts of the pass-and-patch legislative plan for health care reform. I talked about this during the week, just explaining the whole screwy thing, but after I read this excellent Jonathan Cohn item I thought maybe I should be a little more blunt.
Look, this is nuts. If health care reform passes and then turns out to be unpopular, there's no way that Members of the House will be spared because they didn't vote directly for the Senate bill. If both parts of pass-and-patch are enacted, no one is going to go after them because they voted for the Nelson deal and then voted to repeal it a few hours or even a few days later. No one, that is, who isn't already going to go after them on it. If Republicans believe that running against the Nelson deal is a good idea, they're going to do it, regardless of how the House structures the vote -- indeed, regardless of whether the House votes at all ("He's one of those Democrats. You know, the ones who tried to sneak through all those corrupt backroom deals on the government takeover health care bill." See -- the attack goes on, even without any vote at all). Meanwhile, if they do structure a complex process, they can be sure that Republicans are going to blast the process -- and, if the Dems try to avoid separate votes, a lot of editorial writers and other makers of conventional wisdom are going to buy the GOP line.
All of which will make little if any difference to most voters, but it's still a foolish way to fight the spin war.
Look, Democrats are committed to this bill. They're committed if the bill dies, they're committed if the bill passes, and they're committed whichever way they structure their votes. Sure, they might as well repeal all those evil deals (which, it's worth remembering, are probably responsible for getting the bill this far, and at least in my view are a reasonable cost of doing business -- not that any Democrat should ever 'fess up to that particular reality in public). But as soon as the bills pass, the spin war changes -- and it would be a very foolish move to make the first step of that spin war one that will look bad to the Broders of the world. The Democrats should just take the votes, and focus on the things they really want to sell about this bill, which are the immediate and long-term benefits for the American people.
(And on the other side, Republicans are in my opinion wasting their time by whining about process instead of talking about those parts of the bills that they think will be bad or unpopular or both).