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Green Lantern ACA Addendum

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Armando asks a common question with respect to my post from this morning:

Well, whether the ACA was literally the most that could have been obtained is unknowable. But I will say this:

  • Of course Obama had agency.  It was because of him that health care reform was the top priority, and he certainly could have abandoned it in exchange for token reforms, as his chief of staff inter alia urged him to do after the election of Scott Brown.  Again, nobody thinks that the presidency is powerless.  The question is whether Obama could have done something to get a dozen+ conservative Democrats in the Senate to vote for progressive additions to the ACA they clearly didn’t support.
  • It seems to me that given many decades of failure to pass comprehensive health reform, the burden of proof rests squarely on those who think that Obama could have gotten substantially more.  How, in concrete terms, is Obama getting Lieberman’s vote for a public option?  Then repeat for Nelson, Bayh, etc. etc.   (And, no, “end the filibuster” isn’t an answer, since there aren’t even 50 votes for that now.)
  • In particular, any counterfactual must take into account that Bill Clinton tried the strategy most commonly favored by the ACA’s left critics (develop a plan, use public pressure to get Congress to pass it), and it was an utter catastrophe that set back health care reform for a generation.  Again, the burden of proof is one those who want to argue that Obama should have repeated this strategy rather than trying to do something different, especially since Obama’s actually, you know, worked.
  • If you look at the comments thread, it’s instructive that the “Obama failed by getting unprecedented legislation passed” crowd can’t help assuming that Obama is a Westminster Prime Minister.  Did you know that Obama “let” Max Baucus take charge of the bill as a powerful Senate committee chairman?  Not if you understand anything about American politics.
  • If you want me to take your counterfactuals seriously, it’s probably best to not characterize plans that are supported by Republicans only when supermajorities of liberal Democrats would pass them anyway as “Republican plans.”
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  • Did someone say strawman in a taupe hat?

    • Also: I’m still waiting for the sparklepony I was promised. The stupid green lantern never gets used for anything fun. It’s like he doesn’t even have one or something.

      • MAJeff

        Also: I’m still waiting for the sparklepony I was promised.

        Done. Now, where’s Medicare for All? If we can find Sparkle Pony, we can definitely get Landrieu, Lincoln, Lieberman, Baucus, Bayh, Nelson, Conrad….

  • LeeEsq

    I think Obama and the Democratic Party should have dropped attempts to make HCR a bipartisan effort earlier. It was always fairly obvious that only Democratic politicians were going to vote in favor of the ACA. The attempts at bipartisanism were getting annoying after awhile.

    He should have also let some of the more passionate Democratic congres speople rip into the GOP a little more on the issue. There was no reason to censure Grayson for his “die quickly” rant.

    • njorl

      Yep. About the only criticism I hold with on the ACA is that they could have gotten there sooner.

    • dave

      There are two ways that this may be true:

      1. If he had abandoned efforts at bipartisanship earlier, they may have been able to pass something before Scott Brown’s election that may have been slightly more progressive.

      2. Watching him strive for bipartisanship for so long with no hope of a successful result was extremely frustrating

      However, I think the gains to be had form this approach would have been miniscule at best since he still would ave needed to convince conservative democrats.

      I also strongly suspect that the extended efforts at bipartisanship and the censure of Grayson were not a result of Obama’s preferences but rather were efforts undertaken in order to keep the conservative democrats on board.

      I think the underlying cause of this perpetual discussion is that Obama never really staked out a position on healthcare reform and so we can never really know for certain what his personal preference was and thus whether the end result represented a compromise on his part (and if so, how much of a compromise).

      I think my biggest problem with his administration is that they rarely come out and take a strong public stand on specific issues. I believe they do this for political reasons so that they can claim the compromise end product as a victory.

      I don’t like it because I think the benefits of claiming victory on specific legislation are ultimately outweighed by having 100% ownership of mediocre legislation and a perpetually disappointed base that doesn’t really know where you stand.

      • LeeEsq

        I don’t think that ditching bipartisanship sooner would have gotten a more liberal bill pass. I mainly wanted it abandoned because it was getting old. Getting rid of the bipartisan schpiel and allowing some more open rips would have made more of Obama’s supporters emotioanlly happy.

        • dave

          That’s why I wanted it too, but that doesn’t mean it would have been an effective strategy, just a more satisfying one. It might even have been a harmful strategy.

          • cpinva

            “It might even have been a harmful strategy.”

            i’ll bite, how so? it was made very clear, on jan. 21, 2009, that the GOP’s No. 1 job, from that point forward, was to make Obama’s presidency a failure. this would be accomplished by obstructing every single piece of legislation that came their way. they have done so since that day. I fail to see how ditching the bipartisan bipartisanyship could have possibly provoked any more harm.

            • Well, in order to do anything, they needed to get Specter and keep Lieberman. I’m pretty sure acting like the reasonable party always willing to compromise was a key piece in keeping those two content. Seriously,I think Lieberman would have preferred any bill that could get Chuck Grassley’s vote and lose Russ Feingold’s just so he could go on the Sunday shows and blather on about how he punches hippies. So you have the bulk of the Democratic caucus waiting for the handful to accept that they have no choice but to vote with the progressives.

            • Rarely Posts

              I agree with Jeremy. The constant attempts to court “moderate” Republicans were probably necessary to keep Lieberman, Bayh, and Baucus. Lieberman and Bayh were probably the two worst of them, and unfortunately, I don’t know if any other course of action would have sufficiently stroked their egos.

              • Warren Terra

                Yup. A lot of these diatribes about how Obama failed to bring about healthcare utopia elide just how truly awful Lieberman was. My favorite bit of this was Lieberman taking the lead to reject an earlier-entry-to-Medicare proposal (Medicare at 55 iirc; not Medicare-for-all, but very conceivably the first step) – a proposal written just a few months previously by one Joseph Lieberman. The people who blame Obama that there was in the final bill no Public Option always skip the part where this asshole’s vote could somehow be secured to pass even a slightly more liberal bill.

                • Richard Gadsden

                  How much more liberal would the bill have been if Ned Lamont had been Senator for Connecticut instead of Lieberman?

      • dave

        For example, I think Bush probably benefited politically from his efforts at privatizing social security even though the position was very unpopular with the general public and ultimately failed.

        His base loved that he tried and correctly pinned the failure on congress. The public didn’t really punish Bush for it because it failed.

        • His base loved that he tried and correctly pinned the failure on congress. The public didn’t really punish Bush for it because it failed.

          But remember: IOKIYAR

        • Scott Lemieux

          I think Bush probably benefited politically from his efforts at privatizing social security

          Based on what?

          • cpinva

            rats, beat me to it!

          • Rarely Posts

            The huge wave of conservative legislative victories that followed? What did that Congress do again?

            • It’s made it much easier for Obama to cut Social Security. Which he’s totally going to do. Tomorrow, I think. Or, well, he’ll talk about some cuts being “on the table” which I’ll totally claim is vindication of my predictions.

              • Hogan

                If only he could get the House Republicans to go along with that.

        • Brien Jackson

          The two elections immediately following Bush’s privatization efforts were titanic losses for the GOP. You’re going to need some real evidence that this was a win for Bush.

          • Scott Lemieux

            And his approval ratings following the privatization initiative were a ski slope. If that’s political success, I think I’ll pass.

        • joe from Lowell

          The public didn’t really punish Bush for it because it failed.

          His party lost both houses of Congress in the next election.

          Most political observers cite the Social Security privatization push as the beginning of Bush’s decline after having been reelected.

          • Scott Lemieux

            In fairness, George W. Bush never lost a presidential election after his disastrous Social Security campaign, so win!

    • Hogan

      Treating “Obama and the Democratic party” as a unitary force with a single will and intention is a mistake.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Treating ‘The Democratic Party’ as a unitary force is a mistake.

        In Europe, you fight the election, form the coalition, and govern.
        Here you form the coalition, fight the election and govern.

        There are somewhere between 3 and 5 Democratic Parties. We have a two-label system, not a two-party system.

        • Manny Kant

          I don’t think that’s right either. The Democrats are a political party, just one that is very different from European political parties in numerous ways. Your effort to find coherent sub-parties within the Democratic Party will be doomed to failure, because that’s not how parties work. You could say that the old Southern Caucus was a party within the party, but even the Blue Dogs weren’t coherent in that way.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I think Obama and the Democratic Party should have dropped attempts to make HCR a bipartisan effort earlier.

      But this assumes that it was Obama, and only Obama, who wanted a big effort to woo Republicans. It’s much more likely that the failed effort was necessary to get conservative Democrats aboard.

      • Bill Murray

        Based on what?

        • Max Baucus

          Nobody ever remembers anything from Montana.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Based on what?

          So you think that Joe Lieberman, say, had no interest in finding a Republican or two to lend bipartisan cover? Really?

          • bobbyp

            I suspect you’re right, but do you have some public statements from him at the time?

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              but this is the kind of thing that wouldn’t be said out loud, would it? I assume (and maybe wrongly) that there were a lot of hallway conversations that went something like:

              conserva dem to Baucus or O : “can you come up with something that the not crazies can live with? it would really help me”

              B and/or O : “okay, lemme see what we can do”

              B and/or O to presumably sane R: “what can you live with?”

              (commence jerking around, hemming and hawing, stalling by R)

              B, O, & (after much time elapses, conserva-dem) “aw, fuckit, let’s vote on this damn thing”

            • Flashback — 2010:

              Lieberman said he finds much to like about the health care bill, calling it “good and important.”

              But the reconciliation process has been highly controversial as Republicans and others have complained that a bill as important and significant as health care reform should not be passed on a bipartisan basis.

              “Most of the big social changes have been adopted with bipartisan votes,” Lieberman said, adding that using reconciliation is not “the best way to do this for a lot of reasons.”

              “None of us has actually seen the reconciliation package,” Lieberman said shortly after 12 noon. He noted that he will have at least two weeks to make his decision before the Senate’s Easter and Passover break in late March.

              Lieberman said both sides “bear some blame” for the fact that health care bill is not a bipartisan effort. “It takes two to Tango,” he said, alluding to the GOP.

              In the context of the sharply partisan atmosphere that permeates much of Washington, anger over the health care bill could spill over into a bipartisan effort to craft a sweeping climate change and energy independence bill, Lieberman said.

              He recounted a conversation with an unnamed Senate Republican who told him that all thoughts of bipartisanship in the Senate would be derailed for the rest of the legislative session if the Democrats push through health care with 51 votes. The environmental and energy bill would be stalled if the health care bill is passed because “no one will vote for it because they will be so angry,” Lieberman said he was told.

              The Republican senator told him to “forget it for bipartisan cooperation for anything for the rest of the session,” Lieberman said, adding that he wants to avoid the situation “where the Senate essentially breaks down.”

    • Sly

      While it is true that the practical reality of the 111th Congress is that the Senate was basically a 60-member body that operated exclusively under the rules of unanimous consent, “the attempts at bipartisanism” were really nothing more than the result of political priorities of a subset of Senate Democrats.

  • How could someone whose elections were based on building large databases and using them have allowed the fuck up we are presently trying to dig out of?

    Well, maybe Obama was right and it is Romneycare after all, it sure is a fucking Orca of a web site.

    • How could someone whose elections were based on building large databases and using them have allowed the fuck up we are presently trying to dig out of?

      His campaign isn’t required to use the normal Federal procurement process to get its I.T. shit done.

      • Ralph Wiggum

        It’s also worth saying that problems with government IT projects are pretty common. In Britain, they’re trying to roll out a new system for benefits (essentially, rolling lots of individual benefits into one big payment), and unlike with Obamacare they have the luxury of being able to trial it on a few small areas to start with, but even so the IT system is fucked up and is slowing down the implementation of it.

        • quercus

          > It’s also worth saying that problems with government IT projects are pretty common.

          Fixed that for you.

          While I’m sure U.S. federal IT management could be improved (both in personnel and in changing procurement laws and regulations), I’d need to see some evidence before agreeing that government IT projects are clearly worse than private for-profit ones.

          All big IT projects have issues. Especially ones that aren’t build-everything-from-scratch.

      • The Jewish People

        This. If Obama simply could pick and choose anybody we wanted to design healthcare.gov; he could have gotten the best his budget provided for. He and Sebilus had to follow certain procedures though that prevented this.

        • LeeEsq

          Damn it.

          • junker

            I think you might have to start getting used to the new nym :)

            • It sure looks like the guy running the project at HHS had neither the skill or the pull to do the job and that has nothing to do with IT rules for procurement. If nothing else the way in which the site has been improved shows that it could have been done right.

              • joe from Lowell

                I’m with Eli here.

                Incredible fuck-up. I vote for people like Obama because I trust them not to put on big, floppy shoes and cram the entire cabinet into a polka-dot Volkswagon.

                First major failure of the Obama presidency. Now, for that to occur at the end of year five is pretty impressive, but still, there’s no reason to sugar coat this. Huge fuck-up.

    • Ian

      How could someone whose elections were based on building large databases and using them have allowed the fuck up we are presently trying to dig out of?

      My current thinking is that this was part of the problem–i.e., because he was so tech-savvy Obama decided that the only way to implement the ACA was through the internets. If it were done right, I’m sure that would be true–but there were (and are) so many things that could go wrong, starting with all the necessary interfacing with already-existing (and often antique) databases.

      Imagine if instead people could have signed up via paper forms at a local DMV-style office (or perhaps through the mail) for the last year or so. Nobody likes doing that, but I think most eligible people would have gone ahead.

      • stepped pyramids

        That probably would have helped, but it has three problems.

        First, you would still have a lot of the same basic issues that healthcare.gov has: interfacing with government agencies is a pain; interfacing with state agencies is a pain; interfacing with insurance companies is a pain; the scope of the project was much larger than expected since so many states flaked out of implementing their own exchanges; each of the jillions of public and private entities involved had their own politics and fuckups and delays.

        Second, you’d end up with a pretty difficult location and staffing problem as the feds realize they have to open offices in over half the states. If they don’t pull off both location and staffing well, you end up with big front-page photos of breadline-esque queues in front of ACA offices, stories about people who can’t afford to drive in to the city to get signed up, etc. A solvable problem but a difficult one.

        Third, it would be a fairly sizable increase in government hiring. The ACA seems to have been designed to have as modest an impact on government payroll as possible, because hiring enough people to do a good job is Big Government and thus evil. Considering the margins on which the ACA passed, I can absolutely see adding potentially tens of thousands of new federal workers as the straw that would have broken the Blue Dogs’ back.

        In a perfect world, though, yeah, there should have been ACA staff added to every Social Security office. But in a perfect world we’d have single payer.

        • panda

          There is also the issue of browsing/comparing plans, which is pretty crucial to the design of the law. Theoretically, one could design an online browsing system coupled with a paper application, but that’s a really cumbersome way of doing things.

    • stepped pyramids

      Aside from the government procurement issues mentioned above, Obama’s campaign infrastructure was also a greenfield project that didn’t have to interface with many external systems. What we see on healthcare.gov is a thin little layer on top of a Rube Goldberg iceberg of painful service integrations.

      To put it another way: as someone who works in the field, I would have given a kidney to work on Obama’s campaign platform, and I would have given a kidney to not work on healthcare.gov.

      • BubbaDave

        +1

  • Is this the same Armando experiences massive and spectacular shit-loss when sheeple don’t agree with his every word?

    • IM

      Yes. He still sometimes has a point.

      • sparks

        Yes, but he is still the PITA he always was at dKos. He joined not long after I did, so I have long experience with him. When he was right, great, but when he was wrong… absolutely horrible to deal with.

  • ^who^ experiences

    • I saw them live in 1982, and they’re still part of my regular rotation.

      • Rigby Reardon

        Me too – it was one of my very first concert experiences.

  • Josh G.

    We all know the votes weren’t there in the Senate for full single-payer.

    But I wonder if a more modest set of reforms might have been able to get through quicker, while leaving more political capital for a bigger stimulus (which in turn might have reduced the magnitude of the 2010 Democratic losses). Suppose that Obama had realized that the votes just weren’t there for comprehensive reform, so as a first phase, he would go for three things:

    * A reduction in the Medicare age to 55
    * Medicaid eligibility for everyone under 150% of the poverty line
    * Allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26

    I’m not sure the Republicans would be able to maintain 100% unanimity against a Medicare expansion that would benefit a large portion of their party base. It would also be difficult to claim with a straight face that making the eligibility age and requirement for existing, popular programs somewhat more generous constitutes some kind of unprecedented government takeover.

    I think one of the biggest mistakes of the Obama administration, in retrospect, was not focusing enough on the economy after taking office. The economy absolutely had to recover by fall 2010, or the Democratic majority would be impossible to maintain. Given existing political constraints (i.e. preening Blue Dog jackasses holding the balance of power in the Senate), there was no way to both do a major, full-coverage health reform *and* pass a sufficient stimulus by that deadline.

    • dave

      I understand this argument but I still think going for healthcare reform was worth it. It was similar to the Civil Rights legislation that “cost Democrats the South for a generation”. This was the only moment to do it.

      Your rationale had been used by democrats in the past as an excuse not to reform healthcare and with each generation the politically feasible options have become more and more conservative. If we put it off this time we might not have ever even gotten another chance.

    • Ian

      Suppose that Obama had realized that the votes just weren’t there for comprehensive reform, so as a first phase, he would go for three things:

      * A reduction in the Medicare age to 55
      * Medicaid eligibility for everyone under 150% of the poverty line
      * Allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26

      We don’t need to suppose, since the first of these was something that Lieberman offered to support instead of the ACA. Once he realized that the progressives were quite excited about it, he quickly withdrew his support.

      A reduction in the Medicare age would be excellent policy, though (older workers who have lost their jobs are a major social problem), and a good downpayment on Medicare-for-all. I’m still hoping that it comes back as a policy idea.

    • Ralph Wiggum

      Obama was able to sell health care reform in part because it was fiscally neutral or even, in the long term, positive. Two out of the three things you mention there would have cost considerable money – how resistant would Blue Dogs have been to that, and how much more resistant would they have been to spending more on a bigger stimulus?

      • Brautigan

        But allowing anybody to buy into Medicare would have actually saved money

        • MAJeff

          And this is a selling point to a corporate-capitlism oriented Senator who is receiving massive campaign contributions from the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and other medical related fields how?

          Stakeholders matter in policy decisions, not rationality.

    • Random

      I also have always felt that a more concentrated focus on the economic front first would have been the way to go. Establish firmly that you are the thing that fixed the disastrous Bush economy, then you have the political capital to move on the rest of your agenda.

      • Scott Lemieux

        I also have always felt that a more concentrated focus on the economic front first would have been the way to go.

        And they did, in fact, pass a massive stimulus bill. You really think that there would have been 60 votes for another one?

        • Davis X. Machina

          You really think that there would have been 60 votes for another one?

          Well, yes, if it was big enough in dollar terms to make a difference, and had no tax cuts in it, except perhaps for lower-income people, it would sail right through the Senate.

          The sheer self-evident rightness of it, considered logically, and dispassionately, from a policy perspective, would have left a Senate full of rational actors no other option.

        • cpinva

          “And they did, in fact, pass a massive stimulus bill.”

          two comments:

          1. half what it probably should have been, per paul krugman (and i’m inclined to err on his behalf).

          2. a good 30% of it was tied up in taxes, instead of direct spending, reducing significantly the immediate impact.

          Obama claimed it was the best he could get out of congress. given the circumstances, i’m also inclined to lean in his favor.

          • Scott Lemieux

            1. half what it probably should have been, per paul krugman (and i’m inclined to err on his behalf).

            2. a good 30% of it was tied up in taxes, instead of direct spending, reducing significantly the immediate impact.

            I don’t disagree on either point, but do you think that going back to the well would have gotten something better? That’s implausible in the extreme.

            • rea

              The reason why the stimulus bill was half what is should have been, and too heavily weighted toward taxes, was the very same reason why we didn’t get a better health care act.

              This is just Green Lantern II–Electric Stimulus. The Republicans and the ten or so Democratic senators to the right of Obama weren’t going to agree to anything bigger in the way of stimulus, and Obama was not going to change that by shifting his awesome attention from health care to the economy

            • Rarely Posts

              The problem was the initial ask was too low, and in fact, wasn’t supported by economic analysis (which generally supported a bigger stimulus). The Administration pre-compromised, and then had to compromise again with Republicans the “moderate” Democrats. With the stimulus, they could have asked for more and then allowed the “moderates” to negotiate them down. Particularly since it was urgent, and Wall Street was behind it — they held stronger cards than they thought.

              I don’t fault Obama much for the negotiation of the ACA, but it does seem like he should have made a larger initial ask in the stimulus bill. It’s been awhile since I looked at the reporting, but wasn’t this also an issue where Summers and some other “moderates” basically shot down the more ambitious proposals from Romer?

              • FlipYrWhig

                But Summers’s reasoning was that… there wouldn’t be sufficient political support for something bigger. And, if you remember the debate on the stimulus, the deciding votes were cast by people who said, in essence, that the final dollar figure would have to be a significant amount below a trillion. If it couldn’t be a trillion just because a trillion is a big number, and the final result was $790 (from memory), then the effect of the supposedly lousy negotiation was leaving $200B on the table. Well, sure, $200B is a lot of money too, but $200B isn’t the difference between a good economy and a bad economy.

                • Rarely Posts

                  [T]he deciding votes were cast by people who said, in essence, that the final dollar figure would have to be a significant amount below a trillion.

                  None of those people had scientific or economic or ideological reasons for saying that, and they all were responding to the President’s request. Honestly, given the natural human trouble with huge numbers, I suspect that Obama really set the debate.

                  If the Obama administration had come forward with a request of 2 or 1.5 trillion, maybe the “moderates” would have said “the final dollar figure would have to be a significant amount below” 2 or 1.5 trillion.

                  I don’t say that lightly, but I strongly suspect that the Summers’ attitude of “no one will accept over a trillion,” actually defined the outcome. It wasn’t economic analysis or facts. And it wasn’t ideology. If McCain had been elected, I strongly suspect we would have had $2 trillion in tax cuts and military spending, easy.

                  I’m not one to quickly condemn Obama. I love him! His picture is hanging in my kitchen. But, honestly, he should have listened to his most pessimistic/liberal economic advisers, taken their number, layered on about 25%, and then waited for the moderates to cut it. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s the risk-averse, smart thing to do. Because the “moderates” have to trim smart policy every time. We all know it, so he should have assumed it.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  Nah, I think the issue was that dimwitted so-called moderates thought One Trillion Dollars was too big because it has a lot of zeroes. They don’t need a good reason, they just need a bad reason, as long as they adhere to it tenaciously enough.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Rarely, try to think back to 2009. Do you remember what phrase the Republicans used, over and over again in that very special on-message zombie drone that they use, to disparage the stimulus bill?

                  “Trilion dollar stimulus.”

                  The word “trillion” was a powerful word in 2009. Though irrational, it was a major psychological boundary.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  None of those people had scientific or economic or ideological reasons for saying that

                  Grunwald’s book on the stimulus has reporting completely contradicting this assumption. It’s simply not true that every senator who wanted the stimulus made worse had no ideological commitment apart from cutting something from the first ask, and it is vanishingly unlikely that anything close to a trillion could have gotten 60 votes. An ask of $2 trillion would have been far more likely to blow the whole thing up than to get a $1.5 trillion stimulus.

              • The problem was the initial ask was too low,

                This was the problem? I mean, seriously, think about this. Do you think that if they had started by saying $2 Trillion they would have 1) gotten a much larger stimulus passed and 2) without seriously increasing the risk of nothing passing?

                A standard reply is, well, why not ask for $4 Trillion so as to get the $2 Trillion we actually need?

                And stronger hand…what was stronger about their hand? If their hand was stronger why did they have to compromise at all? I mean, if I am in strong position, I get for what I ask for when I ask for it. When my hand is strong, leaving money on the table means that they would have agreed to the higher thing if only I had asked for it. You aim to overshoot the highest thing they are comfortable with by small enough that they are willing to negotiate you down. If you vastly overshoot, you can end up with nothing.

                This is super duper basic, right? I don’t ask for a million dollar salary at every job. That gets me laughed at and maybe loses me the job.

                I think the burden of proof is on you: What evidence do you have that there was stomach for a much larger stimulus? Who would be convinced by the “Well, we’ll only give them HALF of whatever they ask for, and hope they are content with that!!!” line instead of “I want it as small as possible so I’ll start with $100billion”?

                • Rarely Posts

                  It’s always easy to say “the burden of proof is on you.” It’s a rhetorical gambit Scott uses to good effect, but . . . we’re not in court. We’re playing games with hypothetical situations. We each bear the burden of proof of trying to convince each other. That’s all.

                  I am unaware of any, actual substantive basis for Republican opposition to the stimulus except they wanted Obama’s Presidency to fail. I’m also unaware of any, actual substantive basis for “moderate” opposition to the Obama stimulus except they wanted it to be smaller than what he proposed to appear “moderate.”

                  The stimulus was basic economics 101. It’s completely different than the ACA because it didn’t fundamentally change the role of the government, and the major economic elites largely wanted a stimulus. So, it’s a completely different analysis.

                  We also know, from the reporting, that the Administration ruled out more aggressive stimulus based on political guesstimating. Well, it’s fair to question that. It’s not like there is hard science on this. And, unlike with the ACA, we don’t a prior experience of failure (the Clinton plan) to point to.

                  As for the stronger hand: every person one Wall Street, every person trading stock, etc., talked about how the stimulus was good for the economy. For months after it passed, they talked about it. I seriously doubt that, if the Republicans had blocked it, those people wouldn’t have called them and pushed for a stimulus.

                  Maybe we end up with the same exact stimulus, or a smaller one, but I doubt it. On this issue, the Administration really did play a role setting the terms of the debate, and they got it somewhat wrong.

                • It’s always easy to say “the burden of proof is on you.” It’s a rhetorical gambit Scott uses to good effect, but . . . we’re not in court.

                  The ease of saying it isn’t the issue; the truth is.

                  We’re playing games with hypothetical situations. We each bear the burden of proof of trying to convince each other. That’s all.

                  Not really and I don’t see why you get to set the terms. Let me rephrase:

                  I personally don’t find the mere assertion that Obama asking for $2 Trillion in stimulus would result in a substantively larger actual stimulus because That’s How Negotiation Works remotely persuasive. I don’t know why anyone would.

                  I am unaware of any, actual substantive basis for Republican opposition to the stimulus except they wanted Obama’s Presidency to fail.

                  Er…their longstanding opposition to spending? I mean, what work is “substantive” doing here? Do you mean “accurate”?

                  I’m also unaware of any, actual substantive basis for “moderate” opposition to the Obama stimulus except they wanted it to be smaller than what he proposed to appear “moderate.”

                  You mean, ignoring their longstanding opposition to spending?

                  The stimulus was basic economics 101.

                  Which was opposed by lots of policy makers and economists. Cf the EU.

                  It’s completely different than the ACA because it didn’t fundamentally change the role of the government, and the major economic elites largely wanted a stimulus.

                  Let’s see!

                  On January 28, 2009, a full-page advertisement with the names of approximately 200 economists who were against Obama’s plan appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. This included Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureates Edward C. Prescott, Vernon L. Smith, Gary Becker, and James M. Buchanan. The economists denied the quoted statement by President Obama that there was “no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy”. Instead, the signers believed that “to improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.”[59] The funding for this advertisement came from the Cato Institute.[60]

                  (To be fair, there were 200 economists for it, but to say that classic, obviously correct Keynesian economic policy was the consensus view of the economic elite is to ignore, well, everything.)

                  And it’s not like it’s hard to find similar reactions in the press:

                  Everyone agrees that some kind of fiscal stimulus might help the economy, and that running budget deficits is appropriate in a recession. The stage was thus set for the popular President to forge a bipartisan consensus that combined ideas from both parties. A major cut in the corporate tax favored by Republicans could have been added to Democratic public works spending for a quick political triumph that might have done at least some economic good.

                  Instead, Mr. Obama chose to let House Democrats write the bill, and they did what comes naturally: They cleaned out their intellectual cupboards and wrote a bill that is 90% social policy, and 10% economic policy. (See here for a case study.) It is designed to support incomes with transfer payments, rather than grow incomes through job creation.

                  This is the reason the bill has run into political trouble, despite a new President with 65% job approval. The 11 Democrats who opposed it in the House didn’t do so because they want to hand Mr. Obama a defeat. The same is true of the Senate moderates of both parties working to trim their $900 billion version. They’ve acted because they can’t justify a vote for so much spending for so little economic effect. You know a piece of legislation is in trouble when even its authors begin to deny paternity, as economist Martin Feldstein has recently done.

                  So, thanks for trying to flesh out your argument (although, I note, that you don’t address the the fundamental issue of how asking for more works or the risks of asking for too much and I notice you backed down on the inevitability of the success of this strategy), but since several steps are easily shown to be false, I think I’ll still say that the burden of proof is on you.

                  One *reason* the burden of proof is on you (or perhaps you need to lay out the case) is precisely that underspecified counterfactuals are like wishes: Anything can happen. “Ask for $10 trillion, settle for $5 trillion!” Unless you spec the details, it’s not an argument at all.

                  It’s certainly *conceivable* that asking for a larger plan at the beginning would have made things better, but it could have as easily put people off. Why is the one more likely than the other?

                • Rarely Posts

                  Their longstanding opposition to spending.

                  Republicans don’t actually have much of a longstanding opposition to spending — they spent like drunken sailors during the 2000s, Cheney said “deficits don’t matter,” and Reagan was totally comfortable with massive deficits. It’s true that they dislike spending on programs to alleviate poverty or effective spending for the public welfare, and they dislike spending during democratic administrations, but they don’t actually oppose spending. They love wasteful spending (and, one of the rare things about stimulus — it can be beneficial to the economy even if it is poorly spent).

                  It’s true a larger stimulus might have needed to include more tax cuts or more military spending to sweeten the pot. Personally, I think a larger stimulus might have been accomplished with more infrastructure spending because Republicans don’t always hate that. But, I concede, a larger stimulus likely would have needed to include more temporary tax cuts and thus been less effective than ideal but more effective than the smaller stimulus.

                  I agree that Republicans do oppose spending during democratic administrations, particularly because it is stimulative. But, it’s really different from the ACA because, I have little doubt that if McCain had been elected, they would have been very ready to support a huge stimulus. More heavily weighted towards tax cuts and military spending, but more stimulus to be sure. So, I see the Republican objection to “spending” for the purpose of stimulus as primarily a “partisan,” rather than a “substantive,” objection, because I’ve seen little evidence that it’s rooted in their actual belief system and has everything to do with who happens to be President at the time.

                  I realize there was a debate between economists about whether the stimulus would have any effect. Honestly, I’m just a bit cynical about most of those economists (I suspect a fair number would have been supportive of stimulus with a Republican President in office). More importantly, from my exposure to people working on Wall Street at the time, few people working on Wall Street doubted that the stimulus would be beneficial to the economy. Many were excited about it — even people who are otherwise politically conservative Republicans. And, I think those people would have had more pull than the economists.

                  It’s clear I’m not going to persuade you, and I don’t have rock-solid evidence. Here’s what I know:

                  1) Some Administration economists advised the President to seek a larger stimulus;
                  2) They were marginalized by those who thought it was politically impossible, and so the Administration made a smaller request; and
                  3) All debate in the Senate after that point generally turned on how much smaller to make the original figure.

                  It’s hard for me to believe that the Administration’s decision to pre-compromise was smart here. Maybe the decision at step-two to pre-compromise was necessary, but I’ve seen little evidence beyond the fact that they had to compromise more anyway.

                  Also, I’m not an expert of Wall Street, but from what I do know, many people on Wall Street really did want a stimulus. So, that did give the Administration some pull.

                  I just haven’t seen any convincing reason to assume that the Administration got the best deal it could here. I really like the Administration and the President, but I don’t see any reason to assume they didn’t make mistakes here.

                • Republicans don’t actually have much of a longstanding opposition to spending

                  Except….

                  It’s true that they dislike spending on programs to alleviate poverty or effective spending for the public welfare, and they dislike spending during democratic administrations,

                  for the circumstances we’re discussing. So, thank you for agreeing with my point even if you gave it the guise of disagreeing

                  …Personally, I think a larger stimulus might have been accomplished with more infrastructure spending because Republicans don’t always hate that.

                  But… They did hate it here (at least to vote for; to claim credit for is a different story). They cut infrastructure for tax cuts and didn’t add tax cuts to infrastructure.

                  I agree that Republicans do oppose spending during democratic administrations, particularly because it is stimulative.

                  And so asking for more would have made then resist less?

                  I’ve seen little evidence that it’s rooted in their actual belief system and has everything to do with who happens to be President at the time.

                  And this hurts your argument.

                  I realize there was a debate between economists about whether the stimulus would have any effect.

                  Contrary to your earlier claim.

                  More importantly, from my exposure to people working on Wall Street at the time, few people working on Wall Street doubted that the stimulus would be beneficial to the economy. Many were excited about it — even people who are otherwise politically conservative Republicans. And, I think those people would have had more pull than the economists.

                  But this pull only is effective if Obama makes a sufficiently big initial offer? It’s not strong enough to allow a second bite of the apple? It’s not strong enough to prevent gov shutdowns or debt ceiling fights?

                  It’s clear I’m not going to persuade you,

                  Well, because your case is risible.

                  and I don’t have rock-solid evidence.

                  Well, it’s worse than that. See above.

                  1 & 2 are totally irrelevant to the argument.

                  3) All debate in the Senate after that point generally turned on how much smaller to make the original figure.

                  For your original claim to hold it has to be the case that the cards the administration held were only effective in the context of a larger initial offer. This is possible, but unlikely.

                  It’s hard for me to believe that the Administration’s decision to pre-compromise was smart here. Maybe the decision at step-two to pre-compromise was necessary, but I’ve seen little evidence beyond the fact that they had to compromise more anyway.

                  It’s of course possible, but it’s surely not obviously that your way would have been smarter. Saying “precompromise” exactly biases. If I offer $28,000 for a house listing at $2,800,000, it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to do better than offering $2,000,000. In fact, I’m likely to just lose the deal.

                  Also, I’m not an expert of Wall Street, but from what I do know, many people on Wall Street really did want a stimulus. So, that did give the Administration some pull.

                  But not enough to keep their initial offer. Why not?

                  I just haven’t seen any convincing reason to assume that the Administration got the best deal it could here. I really like the Administration and the President, but I don’t see any reason to assume they didn’t make mistakes here.

                  I’m happy to believe there were mistakes. No worries. I’m less convinced that the mistake was such that it left the difference between what they got and what Krugman would approve on the table and that it consisted in asking for more initially. And you need to factor in the risk that it would all fall apart or screw up something else. If your analysis only includes the best case upside of your preferred course of action it just isn’t going to be convincing. If it relies on forces (pull) that are clearly idle in the actual course of events, that will also be unconvincing.

              • Hogan

                I don’t fault Obama much for the negotiation of the ACA, but it does seem like he should have made a larger initial ask in the stimulus bill.

                This assumes that the Republicans and Blue Dogs were coming into this negotiation with a completely open mind, waiting to hear Obama’s initial proposal before forming any judgment. I don’t think I’ve been in any negotiation ever that worked like that.

    • Scott Lemieux

      It seems to me the most likely result of this would have been no health care reform and no stimulus. We certainly know the votes weren’t there for #1. And settling for just #2 and #3 squanders a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

      • I think there’s a chance that #1 could have passed as a stand-alone if there was no ACA. Killing it as part of the ACA was probably more just wanting to kill something in the ACA than any real ideological opposition to expanding Medicare. But there’s still a good chance that it wouldn’t have the votes, and if it didn’t you can’t really fall back to a smaller plan (Medicare is expanded to 63-year-olds, yay!).

        And #2 would end up running into the same problems that expanded Medicaid did under the ACA: asshole GOP governors and a reactionary Supreme Court majority that both think poor people need to suffer. Federalizing Medicaid would be a good idea, but I can’t really think of much that I’d be willing to trade for it.

      • FlipYrWhig

        One of the things that I think people forget, or don’t find important, is that the debate over the stimulus was also a huge factor in the debate over the health care law. After having been wheedled into spending roughly $800B to jump-start the economy, deficit-hawk / budget-balancing Democrats were even less likely to support Big! Government! Spending! on health care. They were already jonesing for a way to reclaim “fiscal responsibility.” And there were a lot of them.

    • joe from Lowell

      I hear you, but…

      I’ve been a Democrat my whole life, and I spent my whole life waiting, hoping, and praying for comprehensive health care reform. The failure of Hillarycare just about killed me.

      Health care reform has been the biggest issue in every Democratic presidential primary I’ve ever witnessed.

      If the Democrats had won that 2008 and come in capable of passing comprehensive health care reform, and then didn’t, it would have been a massive betrayal.

  • JMP

    But you’re forgetting that it’s much more important to prove how super-liberal and pure you are than actually get anything done; so Obama should have just proposed a perfect single payer system that could never pass because it’s better than passing a compromise, just like proving yourself pure by voting for Ralph Nader and getting Republicans elected is superior to voting for an imperfect Democratic candidate. The important thing is being able to prove yourself to be superior, not results!

    • Patricia Kayden

      Exactly. President Obama and the Democrats passed a healthcare reform law that is not perfect but a good start. Perhaps President Hilary Clinton will go further and actually get a single payer system in place by the end of her first term if she gets a supportive Congress.

      What’s the point of grumbling about what happened with the ACA’s passage instead of working towards getting what we want in the future?

      • What’s the point of grumbling about what happened with the ACA’s passage instead of working towards getting what we want in the future?

        Purity of essence.

        • Schadenboner

          Protection of our vital (if overly-hopped) fluids.

    • cpinva

      “The important thing is being able to prove yourself to be superior, not results!”

      and pure, don’t forget pure.

      • JMP

        Of course; by not being perfect and pure, Obama is really just the third and fourth term of George Bush, any tiny deviation ever destroys every act he’s done as President!

    • rea

      When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person. You see to it

      .”

    • Very true. And purity also means constant failure which guarantees the ability to kvetch about the evil of Their Side and the ineffectiveness of Your Side and spend another 9,000 hours masturbating over your dream candidate who is a combination of Malcom X, Valerie Solanas and Bono.

  • Bloix

    The best thing that Obama did on health care was to ignore his chief of staff. The worst thing that Obama did on health care was to appoint his chief of staff.

    Emanuel was not merely an obstacle at the end, after Scott Brown’s election, when he wanted to tiptoe away and let it bleed to death in the gutter. He was a problem all the way through.

    As for the public option, we’ll never know. Harry Reid thought that he might have gotten it through if he’d had more time.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2009/12/the_death_of_the_public_option.html

    He didn’t have more time because Baucus slow-rolled the bill for a year.

    Could Obama have pressured Baucus to move the bill more quickly once it was clear to everyone that he was not going to get any Republican support? You say no, a powerful senator is immune from presidential pressure. I say, Obama never tried. We don’t know what Baucus would have done. We do know that Obama never tried.

    I myself believe that Obama was never for the public option. He didn’t have it in his campaign proposal until pundits – Krugman, mainly – slammed him about it. And he never warmed to it. I suspect that it interfered with his (and Rahm’s) goal of a new, permanent Democratic majority of the heights of the economy – Wall Street, health care, insurance, IP, tech – leaving the Republicans with extractive industries and crazy fundies.

    As for Obamacare as a Republican plan – well, the terms were drafted at a Republican think tank, enacted in a state with a Republican governor, and sponsored publicly by Republicans. See, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/health/policy/health-care-mandate-was-first-backed-by-conservatives.html

    Your argument is that they were lying when they said they were for it. Okay, they were lying. It was still their plan. It didn’t originate with Democrats, either politicians or policy types. It’s a lot better than what we have, and that’s good. And maybe it’s the best we could get with our shitty, unrepresentative political system. But let’s not pretend that it’s what we wanted.

    • You say no, a powerful senator is immune from presidential pressure. I say, Obama never tried. We don’t know what Baucus would have done. We do know that Obama never tried.

      We do?

      • MAJeff

        He just didn’t call in the big guns.

      • Bloix

        Look, I’m tired of being the only one around here who knows how to use google. I remember 2009 pretty clearly. And I linked numerous articles on the last thread from 2009 that confirm my recollection that Obama wasn’t trying to move Baucus along. If your recollection is that he did try, find some evidence and link it.

        • Ah yes, the “I’m not going to google it for you” dodge. A true classic, and favorite of trolls everywhere.

          • Bloix

            Um, I have googled for you. About a dozen times. Which is what I just said.

            • No, you said you had some links in the other thread, none of which say what you say they did about Obama and Baucus. We don’t “know” what you claim you know about what went on between the two of them. Stop pretending otherwise, or provide an explicit cite that shows how you know it. It’s not my job to argue your argument for you.

        • MAJeff

          Move Baucus along to a public option? I’ve got about as much of a chance to move Javi Garcia down the aisle with me. Sometimes, the strategic deployment of resources is a consideration. Might as well move Vitter along to banning diapers.

          • Bloix

            “The public option is “alive,” Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said in a media conference call sponsored by Families USA.

            The Senate Finance health reform bill is the only one that does not include a publicly run health insurance plan among the options that would be offered to consumers purchasing coverage in a new health insurance exchange. Baucus and other Senators are currently working to merge the Finance bill with legislation approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which does have a public option…

            “There are various versions of the public option being bandied about: the pure public option, then there’s Medicare light, even playing field … opt in, opt out. The long and the short of it is that this issue is alive — we’re looking at it,” Baucus said. The Montana Democrat has previously said that there were not 60 Senate votes for a public option, but he softened that position somewhat on the call: “I just don’t know if there are 60 votes for the more pure kinds of public option; there may be more for the less pure kinds, but that’s up to the Senate.””

            http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2009/10/19/baucus-the-public-option-is-alive/

            “Last Monday night (8/17), in an unprecedented conference call to Montana Democratic central committee chairs, the powerful leader of the Senate Finance Committee told his strongest supporters that he supported a public option.

            While discussing the obstacles to getting a public option through the Senate, he assured his forty listeners, “I want a public option too!””
            http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/08/23/771445/-Sen-Baucus-160-I-want-a-public-option-too

            • Scott Lemieux

              While discussing the obstacles to getting a public option through the Senate, he assured his forty listeners, “I want a public option too!””

              Well, I’m convinced! Those words certainly mean more than the content of the legislation his committee passed.

              • Hogan

                Surely no senator would say something misleading to FORTY WHOLE LISTENERS?

                • Lee Rudolph

                  What makes you think all, or even most, of those listeners were whole?

                • Hogan

                  I think we can count on DailyKos to inform us if any of those listeners were partially dismembered.

                • Bloix

                  The forty listeners were the forty chairpersons of the Montana Democratic Committees (the county committees). These were some of the most powerful and most active Dems in the state, and they were pissed that he’d reported out a bill without a public option. I’m a patient man, Hogan, but there are some forms of stupidity that are too much even for me, and one of them is not clicking the link.

                • Hogan

                  These were some of the most powerful and most active Dems in the state,

                  And their leverage on a US senator who wasn’t up for reelection until 2014 was what, exactly?

              • Bloix

                If you made an effort, you would understand that these quotes are from Baucus after he got a surprising amount of push-back from his constituents to the bill that was reported out of committee. He was scrambling to get out in front of the voters. I quoted them in response to MAJeff’s very assured and very wrong statement that Baucus would never have given support to the public option. He had given away the public option in committee because he didn’t care about it and Obama had signaled that Obama didn’t care about it, and all of a sudden he learned that Montana voters did care about it – too late for Harry Reid to do anything about it. Please try to keep up.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Exactly — these words say absolutely nothing about whether Baucus favored a public option. Precisely my point! How this is evidence that Obama could have gotten the public option if he really wanted it is beyond me.

                • joe from Lowell

                  He had given away the public option in committee because he didn’t care about it and Obama had signaled that Obama didn’t care about it

                  This is the fundamental error of progressive purity political analysis: that a compromise taken is always an indication of a lack of support for what is lost, and never a concession to reality.

                  We don’t need to consider whether Obama supported the public option and was prevented from getting one by a lack of Senate support. Because he compromised, we know he never cared about it. This is faulty logic, based on projecting the own purity leftist’s refusal to compromise onto everyone else.

        • I think a likelier way of getting a public option into law would have been to have the House pass it as part of a more progressive bill that can lose several Blue Dog votes, and then try to fight it out when the two are being reconciled, so you can go around trying to get it through the Senate Finance Committee where nobody else really has any leverage over Max Baucus. Of course, that strategy requires not losing a special election before the finish line. And aside from that, I still don’t think it would have worked. I remember at the time being a bit surprised at the willingness of people like Lieberman to publicly declare their willingness to single-handedly block one of the most popular pieces of their own party’s top priority.

        • socraticsilence

          I have some personal connections to Baucus and trying to spur the man along could very have backfired into a Clinton Fiasco.

        • Look, I’m tired of being the only one around here who knows how to use google.

          Oh, must I go into the LGM archives to prove this wrong? Look it up yourself!

    • Scott Lemieux

      From Ezra’s article:

      That left Joe Lieberman. And Lieberman’s price for signing onto the bill was the destruction of the public option and, unexpectedly, the Medicare buy-in provision.

      Again, how is more time solving this problem?

      I myself believe that Obama was never for the public option.

      But, of course, Max Baucus was. Sure.

      Your argument is that they were lying when they said they were for it.


      Of course
      they were. If they actually favored it, they would have made some effort to pass it when they controlled government. It’s not complicated.

      It was still their plan.

      Not in any meaningful sense, no. Only Democrats have ever actually tried to enact it.

      But let’s not pretend that it’s what we wanted.

      Who’s “we”?

      • Rarely Posts

        There is some rhetorical force to emphasizing that conservative organizations did, at one time, put this type of plan forward and argue that it was preferable to single-payer or more liberal options.

        To the extent “it’s a conservative plan” is meant to undermine the Democrats for passing the ACA, that’s B.S., because it’s the best we could do given our institutions.

        To the extent “it’s a conservative plan” is meant to undermine Republicans who now pretend the ACA is socialism or its failures prove single-payer is bad, that’s fair. They pretended to like it to defeat more liberal proposals, and so they can’t pretend it’s socialism now.

        When a person is clearly lying, we can acknowledge that. But we’re also allowed to hold them to their lies — it’s one of the just consequences of lying.

      • Bloix

        “We” is liberal Democrats. I’m one. If you’re not, forgive me for my mistake.

        You want to say that the ACA is the best that any politician could have obtained under the circumstances, that’s an argument. I’m skeptical but it’s not impossible. As I’ve said, Obama made some serious mistakes but he also got lucky, not least in that he had Pelosi to hold the line while his CoS Emanuel was running for a foxhole. So maybe the final deal was as good as it could have been.

        But please don’t say that from all the possible models, a liberal Democrat would have chosen an individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance from a non-competitive for-profit industry, enforced by a government penalty scheme, as the best way to provide health care. You can’t possible believe that, can you?

        • Scott Lemieux

          “We” is liberal Democrats. I’m one. If you’re not, forgive me for my mistake.

          What liberal Democrats see the ACA as optimal health care reform? How about we just assume that they don’t, and skip the whole lying about whether the ACA was a “Republican plan”?

          As I’ve said, Obama made some serious mistakes but he also got lucky, not least in that he had Pelosi to hold the line while his CoS Emanuel was running for a foxhole.

          Again, you’re provided no evidence whatsoever that Obama and Pelosi weren’t on the same page, and the PBS doc says exactly the opposite.

          But please don’t say that from all the possible models, a liberal Democrat would have chosen an individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance from a non-competitive for-profit industry, enforced by a government penalty scheme, as the best way to provide health care. You can’t possible believe that, can you?

          I would suggest reading the posts before commenting. I mean, it’s right there in the first paragraph of the OP! Jeebus.

          • Bloix

            Outsourcing to Krugman (6/24/09):

            Really bad news on the health care front. After making the case for a public option, and doing it very well, Obama said this:

            “We have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured,” Mr. Obama said. “Those are the broad parameters that we’ve discussed.”
            There he goes again, gratuitously making a big gift to the other side.

            My big fear about Obama has always been not that he doesn’t understand the issues, but that his urge to compromise — his vision of himself as a politician who transcends the old partisan divisions — will lead him to negotiate with himself, and give away far too much. He did that on the stimulus bill, where he offered an inadequate plan in order to win bipartisan support, then got nothing in return — and was forced to reduce the plan further so that Susan Collins could claim her pound of flesh.

            And now he’s done it on a key component of health care reform. What was the point of signaling, right at this crucial moment, that he’s willing to give away the public plan? Let alone doing it at the very moment that he was making such a good case for it?

            Maybe there’s a way to recover from this. But it’s up to the health reform activists to stiffen the administration’s spine. Obama may be satisfied with “broad parameters” — but the rest of us aren’t, and have to make that known.

            ———-

            Well, maybe you’re right and Krugman was a fool. Maybe Obama wasn’t so deluded about the prospect of a bipartisan deal that he was willing to give up things for nothing in return. Maybe he was really playing a deep game in all of 2009 to show the conservadems that there was no way to compromise. And maybe Krugman didn’t get it, Pelosi didn’t get it, Van Hollen and Harkin didn’t get it. And maybe Obama was lying when he said he wanted a bipartisan deal. That’s your position, and maybe it’s right.

            The thing is, there’s no evidence for it. Not only that, it’s your position that there can’t be any evidence for it, because the premise is that everyone from Obama on down lied about their true beliefs. Even more, you get to argue that the evidence against it is actually evidence for it, because obviously everyone involved was lying.

            That’s a hell of a position you got there, you know? The more evidence that can be piled up against your interpretation of events, the truer they are.

            • Scott Lemieux

              I don’t think Krugman is a fool. I do think that he has adduced no evidence whatsoever that Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman would have supported a public option had Obama really wanted them to.

              The thing is, there’s no evidence for it. Not only that, it’s your position that there can’t be any evidence for it, because the premise is that everyone from Obama on down lied about their true beliefs.

              Actually, it’s you who thinks Obama is lying about his true beliefs. Anyway, I think your entire mode of analysis is egregiously mistaken. I don’t know whether Obama really supported a public option or not. What I do know is that there’s essentially no chance of it getting 60 votes so it doesn’t matter.

              The more evidence that can be piled up against your interpretation of events

              You haven’t actually compiled any relevant evidence. In this case, you’re just assuming without the slightest shred of evidence that Obama was willing to concede on the public option to attract Republican votes rather than because the votes weren’t there in his own caucus.

            • MDrew

              It needn’t be one or the other that Obama was deluded about the possibility of a bipartisan deal, or was playing a game to show Dems who wanted bipartisan cover before proceeding that one wasn’t possible. Either one or the other of those relatively desirable effects (a deal or a demonstration that one wasn’t going to be forthcoming) wws going to be the outcome of a strategy of pursuing a bipartisan deal.

              Obama needn’t have had a strong belief about which of those outcomes was the more likely, because pursuing a deal would result in one or the other outcome, and one or the other outcome was a, in his view, for comprehensive reform to pass. The realistic position for him to have was always to believe that he didn’t know whether pursuing a deal could result in a deal, and to act like he believed it could. If it did, then there would be deal, which was desirable to him for reasons explained (wavering Dems wanted cover). If it didn’t, then the demonstration effect would commence, where Dems who wanted reform even if there couldn’t be a deal, but definitely wanted it via a a bipartisan deal at nearly any cost if possible, would eventually come into the fold.

              It’s entirely irrelevant whether Obama believed a del was possible, wsn’t sure, or believed it wasn’t and was consciously choosing the demonstration strategy you lay out. This either-or benefit structure that you yourself describe, Boix, indicates that path, unless you are willing to say that the path to reform should have involved unilateral rejection of bipartisan deal-making by Obama. But it should be noted that, for most observers, it did not appear at the time that that path actually led to a comprehensive reform bill being passed and signed into law.

              • MDrew

                …one or the other outcome was … necessary, that was supposed to say.

            • joe from Lowell

              Paul Krugman is very good on economics and economic policy, but when it comes to politics, he’s Just A Guy.

              • Rigby Reardon

                Yeah, that’s basically it. Just because he’s an expert in one thing doesn’t make him an expert in another related thing.

    • kindness

      Jesus this is Baucus we’re talking about. He was not on ‘our’ side wrt health care reform. They might as well have had a Republican heading that committee.

      One thing I wish Democrats would copy Republicans on is Committee Chairs in the Senate. Republicans scrapped the seniority system and made it so that the Chairs had to be elected by fellow Senators. You know how many crappy Chairs should have been shown the door a long time ago?

      • Brien Jackson

        “Jesus this is Baucus we’re talking about. He was not on ‘our’ side wrt health care reform. They might as well have had a Republican heading that committee.”

        That’s going a touch too far.

        • mds

          That’s going a touch too far.

          Yeah, Baucus is a compete tool, but he finally reported out something. Chuck “Fuckstick” Grassley chairing the committee means nothing even makes it to the floor to be killed by the GOP majority … unless it’s “tort reform” and eviscerating the right of states to regulate their own insurance markets.

    • stepped pyramids

      “The individual mandate was originally proposed by Republicans” does not therefore mean “the ACA is a Republican plan”, because the ACA is not just the individual mandate.

      The Heritage plan was an individual mandate for catastrophic coverage with a tax credit to help subsidize it. That’s pretty much it.

      The ACA includes an employer mandate, substantial regulatory controls on the insurance industry, the exchange system, direct subsidies instead of tax credits, and Medicaid expansion. None of these are present in the Heritage plan, and all of them more closely resemble historic Democratic proposals.

      It’s like saying the EITC is a Republican plan because the Republicans proposed capital gains tax cuts and they’re both tax cuts.

      • Bloix

        See the Republican plan introduced by Senator Chafee in 1993. It’s very similar to Obamacare, with the exception of the Medicaid expansion.

        http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/graphics/2010/022310-bill-comparison.aspx

        You can argue that Chafee’s plan was just a stalking horse to prevent passage of the Clinton plan. I agree – most Republicans would have supported it only as a last-ditch effort to kill Hillarycare. But it was a Republican plan, designed and introduced by Republicans as something they could support if it became necessary to do so.

        • Scott Lemieux

          with the exception of the Medicaid expansion.

          1)Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln! 2)Offering Linc Chafee (as opposed to Heritage) as the typical Republican is one hell of a bait-and-switch. What next, Zell Miller standing in for Democratic policy preferences?

          But it was a Republican plan, designed and introduced by Republicans as something they could support if it became necessary to do so.

          It was never anything any non-trivial of Republicans “could support.” See the behavior of all Republican-controlled congresses ever passim.

          • wjts

            Not Lincoln Chafee, JOHN Chafee. Which is arguably an even more inappropriate comparison. Moreover, Chafee’s bill was, so far as I can tell, never actually voted on by the Senate. When the Republicans took the Senate in 1994, it wasn’t reintroduced. Ten years later, when the Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and White House from 2003 to 2007, it was not reintroduced. And so on.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Not Lincoln Chafee, JOHN Chafee.

              Of course, dammit.

              Moreover, Chafee’s bill was, so far as I can tell, never actually voted on by the Senate. When the Republicans took the Senate in 1994, it wasn’t reintroduced. Ten years later, when the Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and White House from 2003 to 2007, it was not reintroduced. And so on.

              But “Republicans,” of whom both Chafees are highly representative, totally favored the plan in secret.

              • wjts

                I assume Republicans also secretly favored Chafee’s proposal to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns, but voted against it because they figured Clinton would veto it the same way Obama would have vetoed a health care bill with a public option.

          • Malaclypse

            What next, Zell Miller standing in for Democratic policy preferences?

            That does seem to be deadweasel’s argument in the last thread.

          • Bloix

            Jesus H. Christ, is this no true Scotsman or what? I say that Chafee introduced a plan, and all of a sudden Chafee is not a Republican.

            And no, the Medicaid expansion is not what is generally viewed as the heart of Obamacare. The individual mandate is, along with the regulation of insurers and the insurance exchanges. These are Republican “good government” ideas, developed back when some Republicans still believed in good government. Their defects are not failures of liberalism. The problems with this plan are failures of neo-liberalism, of the belief that privatization is the cure for all problems and the way to make government work better is to contract it out.

            • wjts

              John Chafee was anti-death penalty, anti-school prayer, pro-gay rights, pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-environment, and one of only four Republicans to vote “nay” on both articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton (the other three were Jeffords, Snowe, and Collins). He couldn’t get on any Republican ticket in the country these days.

            • Hogan

              the regulation of insurers and the insurance exchanges. These are Republican “good government” ideas

              Holy mother of WTF.

              • Bloix
                • Hogan

                  You should at least consider producing an “argument” that mentions Republican support for “the regulation of insurers and the insurance exchanges.” Since that was, you know, your claim.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  This is an argument:

                  And if the ACA was nothing but a mandate to buy catastrophic insurance with no Medicaid expansion, grossly inadequate subsides, and the voucherization of Medicare like the vastly inferior Heritage Plan, you’d have a point! But it isn’t and you don’t. The ACA is very different than the Heritage Plan, and no non-trivial number of Republicans are even willing to support the latter.

                • stepped pyramids

                  One minute you’re talking about the Heritage plan, which isn’t anywhere close to the ACA. Then when that’s brought up, suddenly you’re talking about the Chafee plan. And then when it becomes convenient once more, you reference the Heritage plan again.

                  I understand that “the ACA was originally the Heritage Foundation’s idea” is a much more satisfying cudgel than “the ACA was originally a liberal New England Republican’s idea”, but it suffers the fatal flaw of being clearly untrue.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Jesus H. Christ, is this no true Scotsman or what? I say that Chafee introduced a plan, and all of a sudden Chafee is not a Republican.

              So, just to be clear, if I say that Heath Schuler is not a good representative of typical Democratic policy preferences, that’s a “no true Scotsman” argument? Are you shitting me? To state the obvious, what John Chafee might be prepared to vote for says less than nothing about what any non-trivial number of Republicans in Congress would vote for.

              And no, the Medicaid expansion is not what is generally viewed as the heart of Obamacare.

              Fine, but it’s very critical to the operation of the legislation, and the tendency of the ACA’s left critics to ignore it because it doesn’t fit their narrative is deeply problematic.

              • Manny Kant

                John Chafee was pretty much the definition of “a trivial number of Republicans.”

            • Here’s Reihan Salam of the NRO addressing the idea of the Chafee plan being equivalent to the ACA. Note that he’s saying the same thing about the Chafee plan: it was too lefty, the Republicans never really wanted it anyway, and the Medicaid expansion is a fundamental deviation that Republicans would never support.

              The simple fact is that the ACA contains policy items that had historically been proposed by both parties in addition to policy items that only the Democrats wanted. There isn’t a single item in there that would have been intolerably right-wing for the Democratic Party all the way back to the New Deal.

            • joe from Lowell

              Jesus H. Christ, is this no true Scotsman or what? I say that Chafee introduced a plan, and all of a sudden Chafee is not a Republican.

              I italicized the part you got wrong.

              Nobody is saying Chafee wasn’t a Republican, but that his plan wasn’t a Republican plan.

              A minority of one whose ideas are opposed by the rest of the party does not define that party’s position.

          • Bloix

            Hey, what do you know! The Heritage plan sis include Medicaid expansion! This blog commenting thing is educational – http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/assuring-affordable-health-care-for-all-americans

            • Scott Lemieux

              Uh, what? I see some vague handwaving about tax credits, decoupling from welfare, and a lot of stuff about giving states room to “experiment.” That’s not remotely comparable to the expansion in the ACA. Indeed, on net it would seem to make Medicaid worse.

              I guess we do know who Bloix is now, though — he’s the guy who wrote the PolitiFact piece saying that accurately characterizing Paul Ryan’s plan as ending Medicare was the “lie of the year.” I mean, he called it Medicare, so good enough!

              • joe from Lowell

                But Scott, Republicans said they wanted to expand health care to all Americans by extending Medicaid, so we should take them at their word.

        • joe from Lowell

          But it was a Republican plan, designed and introduced by Republicans as something they could support if it became necessary to do so.

          Do you define fall-back positions you wish would never come to pass, but which you would settle for if you had no other choice, as “my plans?”

          • The Donner Party

            I’m going to pretend I have no idea what you’re talking about.

            • Lee Rudolph

              But you did come to the pass!

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    I’ve come to think it’s a mistake to believe O and/or Baucus were really trying to get republicans on board. I think they had to jump through those hoops in order to get conservative democrats on board, who wanted the cover a ‘bipartisan’ bill would have (maybe) given them

    • Bloix

      This is the eleven-dimensional chess theory I talked about in the last thread. I linked a number of news articles there that showed that Pelosi, Van Hollen, Harkin, and others didn’t think that this was going on. To believe it you have to think either that everyone was in on the deal and was lying, or that Obama is much deeper and smarter than e.g., Pelosi. You can believe that if you want. But it would be nice if someone would come up with some evidence for it, instead of just repeating until true.

      • Malaclypse
        • Bloix

          Well, it’s nice to see that someone besides me believes in facts. Look, the Democratic-controlled Massachusetts legislature enacted a plan devised by Republicans. Your colleague DJW said, at your link, that the context was that “there was considerable momentum for universal health care in the veto-proof Democratic majority legislature, and in a movement to put an expanded coverage plan on the ballot.” That is, a Republican governor prevented the enactment of a Democratic plan by going along with the Republican alternative.

          What is going here? Does anyone believe that the basic structure of Obamacare was developed by Democrats?

          • MAJeff

            Yes, it was pretty much developed by Democrats. You don’t understand Beacon Hill if you don’t think Democrats have ties to capital interests. Massachusetts is a money and medicine state, and Tufts/Harvard/Partners/et. al. have a fair amount of sway among the state’s Democrats. Romney was irrelevant to a shit-ton of stuff that took place on Beacon Hill because he treated it just as Weld and Celucci had before, as a stepping stone. He was never interested in governing while he was Governor, and most of his term was spent campaigning.

            • MAJeff

              Christ, Romney’s successor was Deval Patrick, someone whose career could properly be defined as “corporate Democrat.”

              • Lee Rudolph

                Christ, Romney’s successor

                Don’t you have that the wrong way around?

            • MAJeff

              And I realize, now, that the comparison with Romney is unfair to Weld, who did work at governing, but not necessarily to Celucci, who was just as hackish, but lacked Willard’s ambition.

          • Malaclypse

            If it was the Republican alternative, why exactly did so few Republicans actually, you know, vote for it? And why did the Republican governor veto sections?

          • joe from Lowell

            Does anyone believe that the basic structure of Obamacare was developed by Democrats?

            Yes.

            Actually being familiar with the history of the Massachusetts health care plan, and not just making assumptions based on an ideological narrative I enjoy, I am willing to say that unequivocally.

      • Scott Lemieux

        It’s not 11th-dimensional chess but very straightforward — conservative Dems weren’t going to go out on a limb until they were convinced that no biptarisan cover was possible — and most of your evidence isn’t actually responsive to this point.

        Indeed, you’re making the 11-dimesnional-chess argument; apparently, Baucus slow-walked the bill even though he didn’t really care about trying for bipartisan cover. So why didn’t he just give up on his own then?

        • stepped pyramids

          Baucus slow-walked the bill even though he didn’t really care about trying for bipartisan cover

          That’s not the only explanation that fits. Here’s another one: Baucus genuinely wanted to bring Republicans on board and was unwilling to proceed without them, but months of even his closest Republican friends dealing with him in bad faith eventually convinced him that it was acceptable to pass the ACA without Republican votes.

          This is basically what happened with the filibuster recently, so it doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me.

          • Scott Lemieux

            That’s not the only explanation that fits. Here’s another one: Baucus genuinely wanted to bring Republicans on board and was unwilling to proceed without them, but months of even his closest Republican friends dealing with him in bad faith eventually convinced him that it was acceptable to pass the ACA without Republican votes.

            This is basically what happened with the filibuster recently, so it doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me.

            To be clear, I also think this is the most plausible explanation. I don’t agree with Bloix’s 11-dimensional chess theory that Baucus went against his own preferences in slow-walking the bill because of Barack Obama, who wanted that because something.

        • Bloix

          I think Baucus genuinely wanted bi-partisan support. He was an old conservative Dem from a conservative state, and he’d spent his whole life demonstrating to the folks back home that he could work with Republicans. He didn’t understand that the Republican party had changed – that it had become a parliamentary party with enforced discipline, that Snowe and Grassley didn’t report to the voters any more. He still thought that they were his mirror image and that they could reach common ground. Pelosi understood that the game had changed. Baucus didn’t, and neither did Obama. They didn’t realize, until it was almost too late, that there was literally nothing they could do to obtain even one Republican vote. They were very lucky that Reid managed to get the bill through the Senate in the narrow window he had left.

          This is the straightforward explanation. The 11-dimensional chess folks are the ones arguing that Baucus and Obama cleverly gave away half the store to the Republicans for nothing in exchange in order to prove to Kent Conrad that bi-partisan support wasn’t possible.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            well, I don’t think it was particularly clever of them. i think it shows what slow learners they were

          • Brien Jackson

            Democrats didn’t give away anything to Republicans.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Democrats didn’t give away anything to Republicans.

              Precisely. How did the bill differ from the preferences of the Democrats who held the median votes in the Senate?

              • FlipYrWhig

                There is a surprisingly large cohort of people who would rather believe that Obama tried to ruin everything to impress Republicans but somehow failed to fail properly — than to consider that a lot of Democratic politicians have policy preferences that harmonize with what a previous generation’s moderate Republicans used to want. The Democratic president got a law passed by slowly, excruciatingly, rounding up the minimum number of politicians in his own party, many of whom came grudgingly and in ill will. There doesn’t need to be more of an explanation than that, does there?

          • joe from Lowell

            Baucus didn’t, and neither did Obama.

            The thing is, we actually have evidence for the part before the comma – we have Baucus’ actions.

            For the second half, we have nothing but your feelings about Obama. The sum total of evidence for your theory is Max Baucus’ actions, which are explained entirely by the very position you just (rightly, by my lights) described for Max Baucus.

  • Anna in PDX

    Scott, I sort of understand why you are criticizing the term “republican plan” – I suppose you are reading this as contemptuous of Obama for not being leftist enough.

    But it is also true that this exact same term is true in a sense, because it is a call-out to Republican hypocrisy in suddenly finding a plan that was designed by the Heritage Foundation and implemented by Romney to be a socialist nightmare because a Democratic president used it. Isn’t this a talking point worth hammering? Is there a way to parse this so that we can continue to remind Reps that they are in fact the original designers of this plan and therefore their arguments against it are facile and ignorable, while giving Obama credit for getting it through their dysfunctional House?

    • Scott Lemieux

      In that context, sure, it’s fine, but that’s obviously not the context in which Bloix and Gourevitch are making the claim. Their argument is that it’s a Republican plan and therefore it sucks, and in that case the fact that you would have to be the world’s biggest sucker to think that Republicans have ever favored it is highly relevant.

      • Bloix

        Well, no. I never said that it sucks. I said that it’s a kludge. Which it is. It promises to be much better than what we have, which is the worst health care system in the developed world by a country mile. If it works, we’ll have the worst health care system in the developed world by a hundred yards, which will be a massive improvement.

        But don’t embrace this mess of thousands of clumsy moving parts, each with the potential for failure, exploitation by grifters and rent-seekers, and unfair penalties and exclusions on a significant minority of poor people, as the liberal solution. It was devised by Republican policy wonks as a fire-break in the event the liberals ever got their hands on enough power to enact meaningful reform, and that’s all it is.

        • Scott Lemieux

          It was devised by Republican policy wonks as a fire-break in the event the liberals ever got their hands on enough power to enact meaningful reform, and that’s all it is.

          Well, no. 1)Republicans have never wanted to enact it under any circumstances, and 2)the Heritage plan is vastly different and far, far worse than the ACA.

        • joe from Lowell

          But don’t embrace this mess of thousands of clumsy moving parts, each with the potential for failure, exploitation by grifters and rent-seekers, and unfair penalties and exclusions on a significant minority of poor people, as the liberal solution.

          I defy you to find a single person who has defined the PPACA as “the” liberal solution.

          Is that what your silly reading of Congressional politics is all about? You think you have to find a tactical error by the White House in order to justify the position that the bill is sub-optimal from a liberal perspective?

          That’s just silly.

      • Vance Maverick

        Just to quibble further:

        plans that are supported by Republicans only when supermajorities of liberal Democrats would pass them

        Isn’t the point that Republicans only “supported” a plan like this when Democrats wanted something else? When a supermajority was finally found to back some plan, and this was the one it was assembled around, then zero actual Republican votes were recorded.

        • Manny Kant

          I believe that is a reference to Romneycare rather than the Heritage plan?

    • oldster

      This is a good point.

      Contrast “Republican-designed plan” vs. “Republican-supported plan”?

    • I think you could highlight the fact that Heritage proposed an individual mandate without referring to the ACA as a Republican plan. I don’t see how the hypocrisy charge works, though. Heritage is a completely different organization today than it was then, and the Heritage plan never made it anywhere close to being passed, either. The Chafee plan which more closely resembles the ACA was only supported by a handful of moderate-to-liberal Republicans. It was 1993, before the Gingrich coup. The GOPers who supported the individual mandate were considered RINOs by the people that today’s Tea Partiers have rejected as RINOs. John Chafee might as well be V.I. Lenin as far as the average 2013 Republican cares.

  • Cranky Observer

    = = = Seriously,I think Lieberman would have preferred any bill that could get Chuck Grassley’s vote and lose Russ Feingold’s just so he could go on the Sunday shows and blather on about how he punches hippies. = = =

    Democratic Party leadership backing Lieberman over their own party’s nominee not looking so smart in retrospect, but the Serious will never admit that.

    Cranky

    • Scott Lemieux

      Democratic Party leadership backing Lieberman over their own party’s nominee

      What?

      • When Ned Lamont won the primary, he retroactively became the Democratic nominee. So all those Democrats who supported Lieberman when he was the Democratic incumbent running in a primary retroactively were supporting the Connecticut For Lieberman Party candidate against the once and future Democratic nominee.

        I think.

        Anyway, that’s why it doesn’t matter that prominent Democrats who backed Lieberman in the primary switched over to supporting Lamont in the general. Because of time travel.

        For what it’s worth, I don’t think it would have been appropriate for Democratic leaders to support a primary challenger to an incumbent. Lieberman was a pretty crappy Democrat in 2006, but he wasn’t even the crappiest, and it’s a basic requirement for party cohesion that an incumbent gets the party’s support as long as they caucus with the party and toe the line on important votes. It wasn’t until after Lieberman had been primaried that he did stuff like endorse the opposing party’s presidential candidate.

        It was also not really that difficult to predict that Lieberman would run as an independent and win even after being primaried. Lieberman won in 2000 by 25 points without even acknowledging that his Republican opponent existed. Lamont won the primary fairly narrowly. It wouldn’t take a genius to conclude that Lieberman would pick up a large chunk of the Republican vote and retain a lot of his Democratic support. Plus, it’s small-state politics — a skilled enough incumbent can get enough personal popularity in a small state that he could eat a baby on live TV, and they’ll keep on electing him until they have to debate whether it’s constitutional to elect a baby-eating skeleton to the Senate.

        • Cranky Observer

          = = = Anyway, that’s why it doesn’t matter that prominent Democrats who backed Lieberman in the primary switched over to supporting Lamont in the general. Because of time travel. = = =

          It was pretty well documented at the time that the Democratic Party’s leadership “supported” their party’s nominee, Lamont, with lip service, while working behind the scenes for Lieberman. The standing ovation pretty much sealed that analysis.

          As I said, not very smart of the party bigwigs. But they’ll never admit that; always someone else’s fault (cf Shumer).

          Cranky

          • Warren Terra

            I’ve got news for you: most nominees are “supported with lip service”. Another word for this is endorsements. So: after the Primary a bunch of prominent Democrats issued statements asking voters to back Lamont, and a fair number showed up for a rally or a fundraiser for Lamont. They weren’t tirelessly stumping for him, but then there were a lot of Democratic nominees they weren’t tirelessly working for! They weren’t retracting every positive statement they’d ever made about Lieberman – because that’s not how people and especially politicians work. Sure, it’s awful Lieberman won re-election. It’s maybe even a shame Lamont didn’t get elected, though if I could separate one from the other I don’t think I’d give a toss for Lamont’s fate. But all these pious pronouncements about the Judas-like betrayals of Lamont are the sheerest nonsense.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Plus, Lamont lost by 10 points. The idea that he would have won had only some of the Democratic politicians who endorsed him gave a couple more speeches is ridiculous.

              • Hogan

                Ah, but if they’d bused in more black people from Kentucky New York to vote in Darien and Westport, Lamont would have had it in the bag!

          • junker

            So well documented that you can’t provide any links?

            • Hogan

              See Firedoglake, passim.

  • Observer

    Scott there were several things Obama could have done but did not.

    In order of importance:

    1) get the Senate to drop the anti-democrat 60 vote b.s. fake filibuster rule. Yes I know it’s not his rule but if *I* was just elected POTUS back in 2008 that’s one of the first things to immediately start a conversation around on Day 2 after the election.

    2) hire a chief of staff who actually believed in an agenda and had no issues with power politics to get his way. You may recall the energy bill that the Repubs wanted back in the mid 2000s. FAILED the first time to get the votes. Held the vote open for an extremely long time the 2nd time around and obviously threatened people with something to gain the win. Hiring Rahm said to everyone that Obama didn’t actually believe in anything but just wanted compromises.

    No doubt you’ll have issue with the above two points. So let’s move on to specific tactics.

    3) threaten Lieberman with withholding his Chairmanship of the Homeland security unless he guaranteed to always vote for every health care bill. You may recall Joe was the RAT who campaigned for the other side and the Dems held a special meeting sometime during either during the lame duck session or just after Inauguration to determine what to do with him after the election. You may recall that after the caucus vote to allow the RAT to be chairman, they said “Obama said not to hold a grudge”. Idiot. This is about the only time in the last 40 years that a POTUS had leverage like that over a potential Senate chairman. If you are not going to hold RATS to account then nobody is going to listen to anything you say.

    I could go on but I believe there’s no point in this conversation with you as you seem willingly blind to the facts on the ground.

    • Brien Jackson

      (3) Ah yes, the “give Republicans 41 votes for a filibuster of every bill” plan. What the fuck were Democrats thinking not pulling the trigger on that one?!

      • junker

        Seriously – this keeps coming up, and I have yet to hear anyone explain what exactly Lieberman needed out of the Dems that he wouldn’t have immediately switched his vote.

    • MAJeff

      I’m sorry, is #1 actually serious?

      You understand we’re not a parliamentary democracy, right?

    • JMP

      “Scott there were several things Obama could have done but did not.

      In order of importance:

      1) get the Senate to drop the anti-democrat 60 vote b.s. fake filibuster rule.”

      Um, do you know what the word COULD means? Because it needs to be possible. You can’t see he “could have done” something, then list something that would never have happened. Or should Obama have convinced Profeessor X to telepathically force all the Senate tpo vote single payer?

      And you say Scott is “willingly blind to the facts on the ground”, after having the gall to suggest Obama could have done that? Really? The fuck?

      • Observer

        It’s weird how people always go off on the “getting rid of the filibuster rule” thing but never comment on things entirely within Obama’s control.

        like what I mentioned above:
        1) hiring a chief of staff who actually believed in something other than tax cuts for the rich. Twice.
        or
        2) saying “fuck Joe Lieberman’s chairmenship” unless he agreed toe the line
        or
        3) not derailing the cram-down (the TARP/HAMP thing) legislation in Oct 2008 by LYING about his intentions and getting his fellow Dems to take it out of the bill
        or
        4) not extending the Bush tax cuts in 2010
        or
        5) not extending the Bush tax cuts in 2012 for a 2nd time
        or
        6) not nominating a union buster inheritance ka-zallionaire hotel mogul for commerce secretary or whatever the eff he wanted P Pritzer to do

        etc. yes let’s focus on the filibuster instead. Keep your heads in the sand.

        There’s lots Obama could have done; he just chose not to.
        Perhaps his agenda is different than yours?

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          how does Obama control the senate chairmanships? is it part of his role as leader of the democratic party?

          • Bruce Webb

            By reading the Constitution?

            PPACA by changing taxation HAD to originate in the House. Which is why the final bill had a HR number even though it was totally a subsitute by the Senate.

            Reid had a billed passed by regular order from the House, the Tri-Committee Bill (HR 3876) and could have under any number of Senate Rules (and the Constitution) brought it straight to the Senate Floor for amendment and so bypassed Senate Finance. Or he could have excercised his Leader’s prerogative and brought the Kennedy-Dodd Senate HELP passed version to the floor with his own Mark filling in the missing pieces under the jurisdiction of Senate Finance. In fact in the end that is exactly what Reid did, the final legislation built on the Leader’s Mark and not any product of Senate Finance, mainly because Baucus could never get it passed out of Committee.

            There is exactly nothing in the Constitution that promoted Senate Finance Chair Baucus into the position of End Stage Negotiator and Head Boobah of PPACA. He grabbed that spot and Reid and Obama let him. With terrible consequences.

            It is not Green Lanternism that would have had Obama and Reid apply the ‘Johnson Treatment’ to Baucus. We wouldn’t have had the Civil Rights Bill of 1957 if Majority Leader Johnson had not put full pressure on the waverers or the immensely more important legislation of 1964 and 1965. Who here can say with a straight face that President and Majority Leader could NOT have forced a Committee Chairman to simply put a bill under his jurisdiction to Regular Order in his committee and let a little constitutional oddity I like to call ‘majority rule’ control the outcome?s

            So I cry bullshit on this “Well the Committee system made Obama cry uncle”. Because Johnson in 1957 and 1965 faced a much stronger system of Bull Chairmen than Reid and Obama ever dreamed of.

            Obama had dreams of being THE post-partisan unifier. Maybe he should have checked in with Mitch “We’ll Make Him a One Term President” McConnell first.

        • djw

          It’s weird how people always go off on the “getting rid of the filibuster rule” thing but never comment on things entirely within Obama’s control.

          Just a few hours ago this was a “thing Obama could do”

          3) threaten Lieberman with withholding his Chairmanship

          The stupidity of this one has several dimensions, but you do realize Obama doesn’t control senate committee assignments, don’t you?

          • Not only a thing he could do, but #1 in order of importance. If #1 on your list of realistic priorities is to locate and harness a unicorn, maybe that’s going to distract from the other items?

          • Murc

            The stupidity of this one has several dimensions, but you do realize Obama doesn’t control senate committee assignments, don’t you?

            Hell, I’ll go one step further on this; as near as I can tell, Harry motherfuckin’ Reid doesn’t control Senate Committee Assignments.

            As far as I know, and someone, correct me if I’m wrong, the Senate Democratic Caucus is organized on basically a pure seniority basis. An opening comes up on a committee, most senior person who wants it gets it. Most senior person on the committee is the chair or ranking member. Seniority is based on time in office, not time in the caucus.

            There are other addendums (I believe there are some committees you can’t be on at the same time as each other and a formula for calculating who gets bumped where when control of the Senate changed) but that’s basically the gist of it, and these rules cannot be changed without the support of a majority of the caucus.

            The Senate is controlled from the bottom up these days, at least on the Democratic side. The Republicans I believe have more discretion; their Majority Leader can credibly threaten.

            • Cranky Observer

              = = = Hell, I’ll go one step further on this; as near as I can tell, Harry motherfuckin’ Reid doesn’t control Senate Committee Assignments.

              As far as I know, and someone, correct me if I’m wrong, the Senate Democratic Caucus is organized on basically a pure seniority basis. An opening comes up on a committee, most senior person who wants it gets it. Most senior person on the committee is the chair or ranking member. Seniority is based on time in office, not time in the caucus. = = =


              You’re forgetting the fact that as of that date Joe Lieberman had exactly zero days seniority as a _Democratic_ Senator; he was a member of the Lieberman for Lieberman Party. It was entirely in the Democratic Party leadership’s hand as to whether or not he would be given any committee assignments. Not that they were every not going to take care of their friend (standing ovation and all that), but it wasn’t automatic.

              Cranky

              • Warren Terra

                Yes, and by keeping that asshole just barely within the fold, they managed to get the Stimulus passed, and just barely managed to squeak out a healthcare bill that, for all its faults, was the biggest advance in at least 40 and probably 70 years. But, sure: convince yourself that the stick of Public Martyrdom For His Principles would have scared Holy Joe Lieberman, and was a better option than the carrot of suffering his massive ego and giving him his committee for a couple of years. I’m sure you’ve got a better handle on how to control him than the people who spent twenty years dealing with him do.

                • junker

                  Don’t forget DADT repeal, Lily Ledbetter, and everything else. In particular, as much as Lieberman is an ass, he was the one out front on DADT repeal and there’s no wah he does that if he’s stripped of his chairmanship.

                • Cranky Observer

                  Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough: I am not taking a position on whether or not the Senate Democratic leadership had to do what they did. Possibly (even probably), as you describe, they did. Doing so did not, however, cause them any anguish; Joe was their friend and they were going to take care of him regardless. That’s the point where I stopped all donations to the DSCC/DCCC/DNC and started giving to individual candidates only.

                  Technically, however, what I said is correct: Lieberman had zero Democratic seniority at that poing.

                  Cranky

                • djw

                  But, sure: convince yourself that the stick of Public Martyrdom For His Principles would have scared Holy Joe Lieberman, and was a better option than the carrot of suffering his massive ego and giving him his committee for a couple of years. I’m sure you’ve got a better handle on how to control him than the people who spent twenty years dealing with him do.

                  Yeah, I’ll fully cop to being wrong in 2006: I wanted to see Lieberman lose power in the caucus, and thought it was a mistake to not follow that path. Unlike some commenters here, I freely admit that subsequent events proved me wrong.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Yeah, I’ll fully cop to being wrong in 2006: I wanted to see Lieberman lose power in the caucus, and thought it was a mistake to not follow that path. Unlike some commenters here, I freely admit that subsequent events proved me wrong.

                  Ditto. I was wrong and Reid was completely vindicated. Had Lieberman been punished there’s no AVA and no DADT repeal, for starters.

        • What do any of those things have to do with the ACA? We’re talking about the ACA.

        • JMP

          It’s weird how people go off on the alleged option you put out there first, in list you said was “In order of importance”? Really?

          I understand; you need to prove yourself superior because Obama didn’t give you the pony you thought he promised. That’s special. You’re a special perfect liberal who is better than everyone else because your intentions are pure. Happy?

        • joe from Lowell

          It’s weird how people always go off on the “getting rid of the filibuster rule” thing but never comment on things entirely within Obama’s control.

          Yes, it is. Why did you do that, when you made “White House gets Senate to abolish filibust” your very first item Obama could have done?

    • MAJeff

      Them’s some good ‘shrooms.

    • Scott Lemieux

      get the Senate to drop the anti-democrat 60 vote b.s. fake filibuster rule.

      with you as you seem willingly blind to the facts on the ground.

      Submitted without comment.

  • Josh G.

    A couple of years back, I thought of a crazy idea that would theoretically allow the Senate obstacle to be overcome without needing to deal with the Blue Dogs.

    The first move would be for President Obama to write the best possible health-reform and stimulus bills, and get them past the House. (The House was much more liberal than the Senate in 2009, so this wouldn’t usually be a bottleneck.) Then, get committed buy-in from at least 26 Senators. There were surely at least 26 real liberals in the Senate at that time.

    Then comes the tricky part. The Constitution says that a majority of either chamber constitutes a legal quorum. It also says that the Vice-President is presiding officer of the Senate. So, without any announcement beforehand, round up the 51 least conservative Senators and bring them into a meeting which includes President Obama and Joe Biden. Have Biden call the Senate into session – he can legally do this for the reasons specified above. (He’s presiding officer, and there is a quorum.) Have him declare that the first, and only, order of business in this session will be an up-or-down vote on the legislation that the House just passed. With 51 Senators present, we only need 26 for a majority. As soon as they pass the House stimulus and health-reform bills, the President can sign them right then and there, and they instantly become law.

    Can someone explain to me why this wouldn’t work? I don’t see anything in the Constitution that prohibits it. The Republicans and most of the Beltway pundits would scream tyranny, but who cares – they’re going to do that anyway. The general public doesn’t really give a damn about procedure, just results. The Senate could conceivably throw a shit-fit after they find out, but what are they going to do? They can’t impeach – that has to start in the House, and Nancy Pelosi can prevent that from happening. Possibly they could refuse to pass any more bills (even budgeting bills) to stick it to Obama, but that puts them in an untenable position – the President always has higher approval ratings than Congress anyway, and as we’ve seen both in the Gingrich era and this year, government shutdowns never play well with the public.

    • Brien Jackson

      Massive political backlash against both the party and the law spring to mind.

      • junker

        I’m also willing to bet you couldn’t actually get 51 senators to sign onto this.

        • FlipYrWhig

          He doesn’t need 51 Senators to sign on, he just needs 26, with the other 25 just a wee bit peeved over having been manipulated into an unprecedented act of political bad faith. No big.

          • Warren Terra

            The other 25 have to agree to the quorum call, or at least have to remain in the room for it. Not gonna happen.

    • FlipYrWhig

      I’m sure 25 pissed-off senators within your own party wouldn’t be a problem going forward. It’s not like there were any other things they’d be asked to vote on for the next few years.

      • Josh G.

        I suppose you could invite the 26 liberals, and drag in 25 conservative Republicans kicking and screaming (as Article 1 states, “Each House […] may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members”).

        • By the standing rules of the Senate, any Senator can suggest the absence of a quorum, which requires a roll call to be completed before any business proceeds. This can happen at any time. So as soon as the 25 extra Senators realize what’s going on, they take turns claiming no quorum, and they keep sneaking out to the toilets so the roll call never gets up to 51.

          Even if they fail to do that, there has to be a roll call to determine a quorum when cloture is invoked, at which point the 25 extra Senators know exactly what’s going on and can walk out the door.

          The only way to prevent that would be to have the Senate vote to have the sergeant at arms arrest the absentee Senators and bring them in. First of all, that would be an outrage. Biden wouldn’t do it, the 26 most liberal Senators wouldn’t do it, the 5 most liberal Senators wouldn’t do it, and it would be regarded as a grotesque power grab (and rightfully so).

          By this point someone’s made a phone call for backup. All it takes is a handful of additional Senators showing up and your plan is ruined. And then you have the next problem: requests for a roll call take precedence over requests to the sergeant at arms. In effect, that means that the sergeant at arms can only be sent to request or compel attendance by unanimous consent of the senators present. If you get past that, it’s also out of order to compel attendance if you haven’t already requested attendance. Furthermore, the rules don’t allow specific Senators to be summoned. It’s a “round up the usual suspects” deal, which would leave plenty of time for the rest of the GOP Senators to show up.

          Assuming you somehow get past all those obstacles, by some miracle, you’re going to have plenty of furious Senators showing up before long, and the first order of business is going to be repeal, the second is going to be censure and removal of some of your cadre of 26, and the third is going to be impeachment of the President.

          • Warren Terra

            But wait: the Constitution doesn’t say where the Senate meets. So, aimple: abduct 51 Senators, send them into orbit where the other 49 can’t join the quorum, and you’ve got your cherrypicked legislative body with a 26 person voting majority. Easy!

    • djw

      I’d be pretty shocked if the number of Senators who’d have been game for something like this was in double digits.

    • Well, you found something even less likely to happen than repealing the filibuster rule!

      Think about how the “demon pass” (i.e., use of deem and pass) for the ACA went down.

      Setting up a situation where a small minority of the senate can pass legislation seems….bad.

      • The Senate rules as they stand make it difficult to pass legislation even with an outright majority. Unanimous consent is required for all kinds of things. That sucks. On the other hand, that makes it basically impossible to pull awful tricks like the one outlined above.

        I don’t find the specter of President Santorum and 51 GOP Senators to be sufficient justification for antimajoritarian rules like the filibuster. However, I am perfectly happy to admit that I do not want to find out what President Santorum and the 26 most conservative GOP Senators would pass, given the chance.

        • However, I am perfectly happy to admit that I do not want to find out what President Santorum and the 26 most conservative GOP Senators would pass, given the chance.

          You and me, both!

    • Murc

      I can only say that, as someone who thinks the country needs a good sharp dose of socialism to even begin to address the issues plaguing it, that if Obama had even thought about doing this seriously I would consider impeachment to be wholly justified, and any Senator who went along with it to have proven they aren’t fit to hold office. I would regard any such legislation passed this way as completely illegitimate and people resisting it would have my wholehearted support.

      Fucksakes, man. What you just proposed comes one step short of an outright coup. This is the kind of bullshit you expect in banana republics and from the Republican Party.

    • Warren Terra

      I think my favorite part of this is that it works in the other direction: according to Josh’s theory, the Republican House can pull this stunt, using their 45 Republican Senators and another half-dozen dragooned Democrats duct-taped to their seats to constitute a Senate that not only has a 51 person quorum with a Republican majority, but one with a Republican supermajority. They can override Obama’s vetos or simply impeach him. They can functionally eliminate the executive branch, if they want! Please, no-one reveal to Limbaugh this magical technique!

    • Anonymous

      Flaws aside, this scheme has potential as a subplot in a Dan Brown novel. Kudos!

      • Anonymous

        Why would Dan Brown be worried about the factual flaws? That kind of thing never stopped him before.

  • junker

    You say this:

    The Republicans and most of the Beltway pundits would scream tyranny, but who cares – they’re going to do that anyway.

    As though the only obstacle here would be Republicans. If I’m one of the non-liberal senators, why would I agree to this? Most of them opposed single payer; putting aside the massive upheaval in senate norms required here, why would a relatively conservative Democrat who opposed single payer agree to something like this? The whole damn point is that they didn’t want single payer to pass!

    I mean this is staggeringly naive; in what possible world could this work?

    • junker

      Whoops, this is a response to Josh G’s comment

    • Josh G.

      You really only need the 26; the rest are just there to satisfy the quorum requirement. So you don’t tell the others in advance what you’re doing. They are simply invited to a “special White House meeting”, then when they’re all there, the doors are closed and locked and the session begins. Any complaints they make about the proceedings can be ruled out of order by the VP. Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution says that each house of Congress is “authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members,” so they can quite lawfully be forced to remain until the session is complete.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        you’re a senator, and this happens to you. what would happen next?

      • “they can quite lawfully be forced to remain until the session is complete”

        Not under Senate rules as they stand. Remember: the Constitution authorizes Congress to make its own rules, and those can be more restrictive than the Constitution requires.

      • “Hi, very liberal 26! We have a SECRET PLAN to get EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVERY WANTED!”

        “Really? Do tell!”

        “We’re going to throw a party, but Joe will be there. And we’ll invite 25 other senators. 51 senators will definitely come to a party because we’ll tell them we’re serving onion soup mix dip! No senator can resist!”

        “Onion dip! We’re there! Do you have some now? I’m starving!”

        “There is no dip! Instead, Joe will call a session and we’ll have a VOTE. And since there’s 26 of you, WE WILL WIN! Great eh?”

        “…”

        “So you’re coming to this party, right? Don’t forget to KEEP IT A SECRET”

        • oldster

          “Wait–there *is* no dip? Ah, forget it. As an elected representative, I don’t even get out of bed unless I can double-dip.”

  • Bob G

    I think it became painfully obvious that Bill Clinton was the one who was politically naive, thinking that he could just hand the congress a bill and the Senate would sit up and beg. No big egos on that side of the capitol. So when Obama becomes president, having been a Senator, he understands that if there is any way at all to get a health care bill passed, it is to get the Senate to write it themselves. If it gets through the Senate, it only requires House passage, which is easier, plus a presidential signature, which he had control over. I figured that part out from the start, and it was therefore reassuring to see that Obama understood this and would allow the American system to function.

    I also saw the ACA as a start in an extended process. We wouldn’t get single payer (which doesn’t mean excellent care, it just means universal access). I was disappointed when they dropped the public option, but I can see why some Senators would shy away from putting the government in competition with the companies that were paying for their reelections. I’m not trying to sound fashionably cynical here, just realistic. It wasn’t fun to lose the public option, but we can come back in later years and look for something like the ability to buy in to Medicare, or some variation on that. I think that ultimately, the way to go would be to offer some level of coverage to all Americans, and simply tack the cost onto the income tax. That way the coverage would be universal and the payment would be under the progressive income tax.

    The fact that no American president ever got a comprehensive health coverage bill enacted until Obama says it all to me. The issue of a privately owned oligarchy of insurance companies effectively keeping millions of people out of the insurance market had to be halted. If this was the only politically feasible way to do it, then so be it. We had to establish for once and for all that all Americans are eligible to buy insurance, because that establishes close to universal care, and relieves us from the fear of medical bills and medical bill provoked bankruptcy. The ACA does that.

    It’s also true that insurance companies are parasites on the system and on ourselves. That’s obvious. However, the ACA puts an upper limit on how much blood they can suck out of us, and it’s twenty percent. There is other waste in the system because doctors and hospitals waste a lot of money on billing, but the ACA requirements will gently push things towards a more universal system, which means that the overhead on the provider side will ease a little.

    Another big plus is the ultimate destruction of that ugliest of insurance company gambits, the recission of policies perpetrated upon people who get sick and require care. Also the abrupt cancelling of policies when people get something that is long term or chronic. All of that goes away, and the rules will be enforceable in the courts.

    I understand that a lot of people resent the fact that the insurance companies were allowed to survive, and may actually make money on the deal. I can sympathize, but it was more important to me that we get the wins on preexisting conditions, lifetime coverage, and ending medical insurance underwriting. Those are huge.

    Instead of whining about the fact that Obama doesn’t have a magic wand, how about being grateful that he got something finished, and vow to work for improvements in the future. Figure to pick up that task in five years or so, after all the drama from the ACA startup blows over, and when the Republicans lose the House.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Well said.

    • Cranky Observer

      Excellent summary. My only caveat is that it is very unlikely there will be any incremental improvements to the ACA, at least in the next 20-30 years. What we have now is what we will have until 2035 or so. Anyone banking on the “we’ll make it better in the next round” is IMHO a bit naive.

      Cranky

    • Richard Gadsden

      Aneurin Bevan, when he created the NHS in Britain, said he stopped the doctors complaining because he “stuffed their mouths with gold”.

      Obama seems to have done the same to the insurance companies.

  • Alex

    Ok, this is much clearer now. I was wondering what the point of this particular bee in your bonnet was, and I was between:

    1. Lemieux doesn’t want single-payer

    2. Lemieux thinks that lefties complaining about the ACA might lead to repeal

    Now I realize that it’s:

    3. Lemieux cares about what the left thinks of Obama

    If you’re not trying to get lefties to stop supporting single payer (as I thought) and are instead just trying to get them to stop bashing Obama (as it appears now), then I’m going to just start scrolling past these posts (not a threat, just a statement). I find the question of the left’s opinion of a politician not up for reelection so uninteresting that I can’t even engage.

    • junker

      The point of these posts isn’t about defending Obama. It’s about correcting obviously wrong critiques of the process so that more intelligent critiques can be made.

    • Scott Lemieux

      1. Lemieux doesn’t want single-payer

      So you both didn’t read the original post and don’t know anything about American politics?

      I find the question of the left’s opinion of a politician not up for reelection so uninteresting that I can’t even engage.

      Similarly, I find comments unable to understand even the most basic arguments made by posts so uninteresting there’s no point in further engagement.

  • Because obama doesnt have three years left on his last term and we aren’t facing midterms.

  • joe from Lowell

    Reason tells me that the execution of any endeavor as complicated and difficult as the passage of health care reform was not carried with perfect efficiency, so of course there have to be things Obama could have done better. Heck, Bill Belichick found mistakes to criticize in every single one of the Patriot’s wins in the 16-0 season.

    None of the suggestions I’ve seen from Obama’s leftist critics make any sense, though. Nonetheless, the answer to Armando’s question has to be “Yes.”

  • Pingback: The Affordable Care Act Is Not Remotely Similar to the Heritage Plan - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • Slocum

    NNNNNADERRR!

  • Bruce Webb

    No one will read this. Well the hell with it.

    In July 2009 the House passed Obama 2008 Obamacare via the Tri-Committee Bill. That is all three committees with jurisdiction put out a single bill AFTER having negotiated ALL necessary compromises with Blue Dog Dems and non-insane R’s. A week later Senate HELP passed out Kennedy-Dodd, something entirely reconcilable with the House Tri-Committee Bill but lacking sections under the jurisdiction of Senate Finance. At which point Chairman Baucus of Senate Finance declared complete control of the process, discarded the House Tri-Committee Bill and Senate HELP Kennedy-Dodd and started all over with the Gang of Seven turned Six to write a bill that would achieve bi-partisan support.

    From August 2009 to November Obama took no public role at all and left everything in the hands of Baucus and his Gang. Ultimately that Gang (like all after it) failed to come to an agreement that would get even a single Republican vote and Leader Reid took control of the process with a Leader’s Mark that incorporated much more of Senate Finance than Senate HELP, in particular no version of the Public Option was in it at all. At the very last minute Reid’s Leader’s Mark was amended in smallish progressive ways, most importantly in reinserting Medical Loss Ratios and passed without Republican support and delivered to the House on a take or leave it basis. Whereupon Pelosi (in my mind wisely) took the best deal she could get and let her own chambers Tri-Committee Bill and her own Mark be subsituted by the Senate version.

    But the point is that NOTHING forced Obama and Reid to let Baucus hijack the process in early August. Reid could have, and under the Constitution arguably should have,simply brought HR 3876 – the Tri-Committee Bill to the Senate Floor and opened it up to Amendments. Which process would not have taken nearly the same five months that Baucus was allowed to control the clock by re-writing the whole bill within the confines of the SFC Gang of Six.

    Even more to the point, in August Obama and Reid had a 60 vote Dem caucus with Kennedy dying. Maybe they bet that Martha Coakley would retain their majority and so they would still have 60 votes come winter. Well that didn’t work out. Which doesn’t excuse their going to final negotiations with R’s via the SFC rather than ramming it through on a 60-40 basis in August in time for Kennedy to attend a Rose Garden signing ceremony on the issue he spent 50 years pushing.

    Sure a 60-40 vote in August would have meant rolling President Nelson of Nebraska and Co-President Landrieu to voting with their Party. On the other hand the final vote required that ANYWAY and with a bill that had been moved a long way towards the right in the meanwhile, and ended up getting no R support anyway.

    This isn’t Green Lanternism. In August 2009 Obama and Reid only had to tell Baucus to ‘Soldier Shut Up and Soldier’ and put the combined House Tri-Committee Bill/Senate HELP to regular order in his Committee (rather than committing it to a Gang), have markups and then pass the completed project out using his two vote majority. And then reconcile that with Senate HELP on the Senate Floor and then send it over to the Pelosi controlled House for Conference. But Obama and Reid did none of that, a dying Kennedy actually died and was replaced by Republican Brown and Reid and Obama were forced to pass a thoroughly pre-compromised version of what had been an actual version of Obamacare back in July.

    Only by ignoring all the legislative history between July and December does any of this “Obama did the best he could considering the political landscape” make any sense. Because he clearly squandered the opportunity he had in August 2009 in favor of some Hope-y Change-y Bi-Partisan-y fantasy. He had a 60 vote Dem Senate majority and only two or three Conservadems to pressure and chose to take a different path. Leaving us where we are.

    But Crap I posted all of this in real time at Angry Bear and no one listened to me in Fall 2009 so why would anyone pay creedance now.

    • But the point is that NOTHING forced Obama and Reid to let Baucus hijack the process in early August.

      Other than the small need to secure his vote and perhaps the votes of a couple other senators?

      Seriously, how is this different than “pass through reconciliation” or “kill the filibuster then pass with 51”! I

      And isn’t it precisely green laternism to say that they could have rammed it through earlier on a more liberal bill with no attempt at Republican engagement?

    • joe from Lowell

      You left out something: the bill actually passed, instead of going down in flames like every other health care reform effort in the past half century.

      Comments like yours read like people looking at Roger Marris’s 61 HR season and complaining that his swing is a all wrong.

      Letting the Senate Chairmen do what they felt they needed to do resulted in successful passage instead of another HillaryCare debacle? Is that what you’re telling me?

      All right, yay for handing off to the Senate committee chairs!

    • joe from Lowell

      But the point is that NOTHING forced Obama and Reid to let Baucus hijack the process in early August. Reid could have, and under the Constitution arguably should have,simply brought HR 3876 – the Tri-Committee Bill to the Senate Floor and opened it up to Amendments.

      And then when Lieberman and Baucus vote against cloture, what happens?

      Ah, but I forget: first Obama tells them to cut the bullshit, and the shiny purple ponies appear.

  • Scott Lemieux

    He had a 60 vote Dem Senate majority

    And all 60 voted for the ACA.

    two or three Conservadems

    If only! Although since every one has a veto your argument remains sheer fantasy.

  • Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
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