The number of Democrat Senators who have signed on to a letter pushing for a public option to be rammed through via a reconciliation vote has jumped to 16. Senators Barbara Boxer and Tom Udall have joined Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and others in support for the unilateral measure that requires only 51 votes for passage, but is supposed to be limited to budgetary matters.
On top of this, Congressional Democrats are busy hashing out a plan by themselves for President Obama to present to Republicans at a so-called bipartisan health care summit. It makes the entire point of the summit rather moot if the final bill will already by written before the GOP can even comment on it or offer alternatives to the President, a point that House Minority Leader John Boehner is right to be upset about.
Are Congressional Democrats really so short-sighted as to jam a bill that is to the left of the one detested by 58% of Americans via an arcane legislative maneuver specifically designed to cut out dissent? Did they really learn nothing from Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts when he pledged to be the 41st vote against the current health care proposals? This just seems like a move of desperation from a party that is unable to craft a palatable health care bill through normal means and are now forced to either compromise or ramrod their wish list through by whatever means necessary.
Supporters may say such a move is absolutely necessary to combat stubborn GOP obstructionism. To which I say … sorry, kids, the GOP isn’t standing in the way on this. Sure, not one Republican voted for it in the Senate, and only one voted for it in the House, but guess what … Democrats don’t need a single Republican vote to pass anything. It’s Democrats representing moderate and conservative districts and states that are balking at the bills being served up so far, and the GOP is merely a convenient scapegoat for the Democrats’ inability to craft legislation amenable to the majority of Americans.
Under these conditions, the health-care summit is undoubtedly a sham, and Republicans should take the opportunity to point that out to the President, who will likely try to simply browbeat them to signing on to whatever he shows them. So much for uniting the country. So much for compromise. So much for bipartisanship.
Democrats seem to remain committed to an ideological quest rather than representative democracy, and if they pull the trigger on this, they will pay a hefty and well-deserved political price. They will set a precedent for major legislation that won’t serve them well when they return to the minority, and they’ll illustrate perfectly how committed they are to appeasing their base and not representing all of America, which, by the way, includes the right and the center.
But they’ll have their precious public option, which they hope will mature into a single payer. Their goal will have been met, but in the process, they will have ignored the will of the American people and given the middle finger to deliberative and representative democracy. In their minds, though, the ends will justify the means, which is why I’m increasingly thinking they might try to do this. Pass the popcorn if that happens.