Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown was one of four signatories to a letter sent to Harry Reid calling for Senate Democrats to use reconciliation to push through a public option health care reform bill. For those unfamiliar, reconciliation is a parliamentary procedure that requires only 51 votes for passage of strictly budgetary items. It has been termed the “nuclear option” for Democrats who run the increasing risk of angering voters that want a more bipartisan solution to health care than the one-party horse-trading we’ve witnessed the last few months.
The thinking of Brown and his pals is that the public option will save so much money and is so popular in polls that Democrats simply must use every tool at their disposal to ram it through. The potential savings of the public option vary widely depending on which budget office you ask, and a massive expansion of federal bureaucracy simply isn’t going to save us money in the long run, particularly if it serves as a precursor to a single payer system. As for the public option’s popularity, are there any polls within the last month that show how popular it remains? True, it was polling pretty well initially, but I bet that’s due to a lot of voters that like the general idea of a public option but would be turned off to see how it would be enacted in practice.
And the former Senate parliamentarian, Robert Dove, points out that reconciliation wouldn’t be a good procedure for dealing with health care reform anyway. He says it’s not designed for massive policy making like this, and it seems to me that to use it would be an admission that Democrats can’t get support for their plan and would simply use raw political power to muscle it through, the will of the voters be damned.
This letter should dispel any remaining notion that Sherrod Brown is some kind of common sense moderate. Indeed, it’s further proof that he’s an ideologically driven progressive/liberal, whichever moniker you want to use. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, except that Brown doesn’t represent Vermont or Oregon, he represents the center-right state of Ohio.
Brown isn’t up for re-election until 2012, but the GOP would be wise to keep this episode in mind during their bid against him four years from now. It’s clear that when the country wants to start over on health care and wants Congress to tack more to the center, Brown wants to force the debate to the hard left. He’s evidently more concerned with fulfilling a liberal wish list than he is with enacting moderate and common sense solutions that don’t have narrow support.
That’s not what the country needs now, and frankly, that’s not what Ohio needs in particular. Brown has another four years left in his term, but it’s doubtful that he’ll use them to act on behalf of the moderate and conservative Ohioans he was elected to represent along with the progressive Buckeyes to which he is quite clearly and exclusively listening.