Republicans continue to warn Democrats that if they pass health care reform, they will lose their seats in November.
For what it’s worth, I believe that a fair number of incumbents (Republicans as well as Democrats) will lose their jobs in November because unemployment will remain high. In good times, Americans vote for the person they like: charisma carries the day. In bad times, they vote their pocketbooks. Health care reform will not be the issue that decides elections in November.
I also remain confident that Democrats will manage to pass this legislation, probably using the strategy that Ezra Klein outlines here. It may sound complicated, but according to congressional scholar Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, Pelosi’s “deem and pass strategy is not unusual.”
Also, consider the fixes to the Senate bill that Klein describes: “the elimination of the Nebraska and Florida deals, the delay of the excise tax, more affordability and oversight provisions and more funding of community health centers.” They’re all good, and they should please both the House—and the public.
Will Democrats Who Vote For Reform Be Punished in November?
If you’re a Democrat who is worried about losing in November, it strikes me that you might want to be remembered as someone who voted for the public good—legislation that would cover millions of uninsured Americans.
Unless, of course, you’re a Democrat who agrees with the Republicans…Earlier today Pelosi summed up the Republican’s point of view; “The same forces that are aligned against Medicare are against this bill. This is what they believe. I’ll give them credit for staying true to their beliefs – they don’t believe in health care for all Americans and a government role in that. The budget that they have [Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget] privatizes social security, offers vouchers instead of Medicare, and gives block grants to states instead of Medicaid. That is what they believe.”
Pelosi added: “If we don’t pass this bill, how do we explain that to Americans?"
Democrats Have More to Lose If They Don’t Pass Legislation
There, I think, she gets to the crux of the matter. If her party fails to pass a bill that it has described as the most important piece of legislation that this country has seen in decades, Democrats will seem not only impotent, but totally incompetent. Why would you vote for any of them again?
It is not as if there is an alternative to this legislation that the pubic might like better. The only alternative is the status quo: the cost of care will continue to spiral, and more and more Americans will find themselves priced out of the health care market.
On the other hand, as Joseph White, a professor of politics at Case Western Reserve University, pointed out this week-end in The Fiscal Times: if Democrats pass reform they will be able to point to something and say: “This is what we did, this is the truth about it, this is how it would help you.” (Thanks to Merriill Goozner for calling attention to White’s column over at GoozNews on Health.)
Moreover, White noted, if we have a bill, the press may begin to focus “more on the actual provision of the bill as opposed to GOP charges.” Keep in mind: polls show that the more Americans learn about what is actually in the legislation, the better they like it.
White concludes: “The Democrats also have to remember that the ‘losers who can’t deliver’ consideration will be far more prominent in November if they pass nothing now. In short, the battle over interpretation of the health care reform effort has only begun. We do not know how it will turn out in November, but there are good reasons to believe the Democrats are better off fighting it with a new law in hand.”
Finally, keep in mind, voters will see some of the benefits of reform immediately: As the Brookings’ Institution pointed out in a piece published today: “contrary to conventional wisdom, will not simply frontload the costs and backload the benefits. The plan will move quickly to erase the unpopular 'doughnut hole' that results in a costly jolt for many seniors buying prescription drugs, to end discrimination based on preexisting conditions for children, to ease the insurance burden on those losing or leaving their jobs, and to enable parents to carry children up to the age of 26 on their family policies.”
How many Americans know that all of these provisions are part of the legislation and that they won’t have to wait until 2014 to see the effect? Today, I would say, “not many.” However, if we pass legislation, by November the public will be better informed.