Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health Care, In Future Tense

I was going to write something in response to this AP story, but Jonathan Chait beat me to it

Chait's post is excellent, and I recommend the whole thing.  I agree down the line with him...if anything, I think the bill is a bit more likely to pass than he thinks it is. 

I guess I can't really understand the president's actions in the last couple of weeks if the bill is likely to fail.  Obama could have, had he thought the bill was dead, retreated to a "pass something" mode, and pushed for a small beans, happy-talk bill that either would have passed, or which he could have used to bash Republican opposition.  The idea that he would spend a month or so elevating the importance of the original bill, and eventually putting his own personal stamp on the House/Senate compromise, without having a pretty good sense that it would pass just doesn't seem likely to me.  Oh, and the "Obama plan" sure looked designed to get through reconciliation (notice the absence of House-favored national exchanges and the antitrust thing, both of which are Byrd rule bait).  If the White House is just scoring points, why care about such things?

Perhaps Barack Obama (and Rahm Emanuel, and the rest of the White House) have no idea what they're doing.  That's possible.  But it seems far more likely to me that they have at least a tentative whip count from the House -- and there's no question but that the House is where the action is -- showing that they have the votes. 

To believe otherwise requires one to believe both that House Democrats are foolish (because their political interest lies in passing the bill) and that the White House is incompetent.  I see little evidence of either. 

There's plenty of evidence, however, that Washington conventional wisdom has been wrong before about this president.  Chait points to the late summer idea that the Town Hall crazies had damaged health care, something that was completely wrong.  Others have pointed to dead spots in the Obama campaign, in fall 2007 in Iowa and nationally in summer 2008.  I'll give another one: Washington conventional wisdom totally swallowed the GOP talking point that Obama was dragging his feet on Afghanistan with all sorts of dire consequences to come, but of course (whatever happens in Afghanistan eventually) that turned out to be much ado about nothing, too. 

I won't be shocked if health care reform fails, but I'll be surprised.


  1. Read this. It's a good analysis of Obama's strategic options.


  2. I hope you're right. But you divide the possibilities too starkly. Why not assume that the White House has decided that the bill is worth fighting for, without assuming that they they think they know the outcome?


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