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PW logo Overheated Talk Undoing Republicans Health Care Reform Heads to the Courts
Obama Must Sign Bill Before Senate Takes Up Fixes Final Votes Were Not Easy for Pelosi
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News from the Votemaster            

List of the Democrats Who Voted No     Permalink

Even cursory inspection of the 34 House Democrats who voted no on the health-insurance bill shows that with a couple of exceptions, they come from very red districts measured by PVI, Obama's percentage in 2008, and Kerry's percentage in 2004. Almost assuredly, they had Nancy Pelosi's permission to vote no to save their own seats as soon as she was able to come up to 216 or 217 votes. She ultimately got 219 votes to provide a little margin for safety and also to make it impossible for Republicans to attack any of the yes voters with: "If you had voted no, the bill would have been defeated. Here is the list sorted by PVI."

CD* Representative PVI Obama % Kerry % Notes
MS-04 Gene Taylor R+20 32% 31%  
TX-17 Chet Edwards R+20 32% 30%  
ID-01 Walt Minnick R+18 36% 30% Freshman
AL-02 Bobby Bright R+16 37% 33% Freshman
UT-02 Jim Matheson R+15 40% 31%  
MO-04 Ike Skelton R+14 38% 35%  
MS-01 Travis Childers R+14 37% 37%  
OK-02 Dan Boren R+14 34% 41%  
MD-01 Frank Kratovil R+13 40% 36% Freshman
TN-04 Lincoln Davis R+13 34% 41%  
LA-03 Charlie Melancon R+12 37% 41% Running for Senate
VA-09 Rick Boucher R+11 40% 39%  
GA-08 Jim Marshall R+10 43% 39%  
KY-06 Ben Chandler R+9 43% 41%  
SD-AL Stephanie Herseth R+9 45% 38%  
AR-01 Marion Berry R+8 38% 47% Retiring
AR-04 Mike Ross R+7 39% 48%  
OH-18 Zack Space R+7 45% 43%  
NC-11 Heath Shuler R+6 47% 43%  
NM-02 Harry Teague R+6 49% 41% Freshman
PA-04 Jason Altmire R+6 44% 45%  
PA-17 Tim Holden R+6 48% 42%  
TN-08 John Tanner R+6 43% 47% Retiring
MN-07 Collin Peterson R+5 47% 43%  
NC-07 Mike McIntyre R+5 47% 44%  
VA-02 Glenn Nye R+5 50% 42% Freshman
NY-13 Mike McMahon R+4 49% 45% Freshman
NC-08 Larry Kissell R+2 52% 45% Freshman
NY-24 Mike Arcuri R+2 50% 47%  
NJ-03 John Adler R+1 52% 49% Freshman
GA-12 John Barrow D+1 54% 49%  
IL-03 Dan Lipinski D+11 64% 59%  
MA-09 Stephen Lynch D+11 60% 63%  
AL-07 Artur Davis D+18 71% 64% Running for governor

That Democrats can manage to win R+20 districts, as Chet Edwards and Gene Taylor have done, is something of a miracle, and Pelosi clearly didn't want to saddle them up with unnecessary baggage. Artur Davis is running for governor of Alabama, so he clearly needed a pass on this one and Stephen Lynch and Dan Lipinski voted against it because it didn't go far enough. That leaves only about five representatives, from McMahon to Barrow, all in swing districts, who might have voted for it and gotten away with it, but Pelosi didn't need their votes so she let them do what they thought was best for reelection.

Lessons from the Whole Health-Insurance Reform Process     Permalink

Obama got his bill, but it doesn't really reform much. It is largely about the government buying insurance for 30 million poor and lower middle class people who can't afford it. But it does little to control costs and not much to change the way the insurance industry operates. While starting in 2014 they can't refuse taking on sick people point blank, they can certainly give them a runaround, hoping they will get angry with the company and find another one. It is perhaps a bit early to try to draw any lessons from the whole process, but here is a first cut.

  • Move faster. The whole process took well over a year, during which time the opposition had plenty of time to organize and mobilize public opinion. If the bill had been passed by June 2009, there would not have been any tea party events in August 2009 and public opinion would have been far more favorable at the time of passage. Compare the Democrats' glacial pace with the speed the Bush administration moved on its key priorities (tax cuts, NCLB, Medicare Part D, etc.). Americans like decisiveness and Bush not only said he was the decider, he acted like it, too.

  • Frame the issue. Chuck Schumer once said that when the Republicans manage to frame an issue as the rich and the middle class against the poor, the Republicans win. But when the Democrats manage to frame an issue as the poor and the middle class against the rich, the Democrats win. Obama shot himself in the foot on this one by constantly emphasizing the value of the bill to the 30 million uninsured. He should have told people over and over: "You may be paying premiums, but if you get sick, your insurance company may drop you and that is legal. I want to make it illegal." By framing the issue as the people vs. the insurance companies, Obama would have engaged insured voters far more and made it much more difficult for anyone to attack his goal.

  • Study history, but don't be a slave to it. Obama knew that when (Hillary) Clinton wrote a health bill, tossed it over the wall to Congress, and told them to pass it, it didn't work. But that didn't mean he should stay out of the loop altogether until the endgame. His active involvement from day 1 would have speeded up the process immensely.

  • Too many cooks spoil the broth. Obama outsourced the bill to Max Baucus, Chris Dodd, and three committee chairman in the House. This led to a real mess. He should have said, in public, what features he wanted in the bill, and then told the Senate and House leadership to each pick one committee chairman in each chamber to fill in the details.

  • Bipartisanship doesn't work. The voters want the people in Congress to work together to solve the country's problems, but that is not how Congress works. Each party has its own goals and they are usually diametrically opposed. That is the nature of a two-party system. Having the two parties oppose each other all the time is not a bug in the system; it is a feature. It is how Democracy works. After Bush's victory in 2000, he said: "I won. You lost. Now I am going to carry out my program." After failed attempts to get Olympia Snowe on board, Obama should have said the same thing. To the extent that negotiating was needed, it should have been with Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, who were gettable if they got what they wanted whereas even when Snowe got what she wanted (killing the public option), she still voted no.

  • Fight misinformation. When Republicans began saying things that weren't true, they should have been called on it. For example, when Sarah Palin began claiming there were death panels in the bill, Obama should have asked a senior senator, say, Tom Harkin (D-IA), to write a check for $10,000 to Palin hold it up for the TV cameras, and say: "Sarah, I'll bet you $10,000 you can't tell me the page and line where death panels are created. How about it Sarah? Put your money where your mouth is." She would have had to back down since she couldn't point to a page and line.

Government Takeover Included in Reconciliation Bill     Permalink

The Republicans got it partly right: there is a government takeover in the reconciliation bill. Only it is in education, not health care. Virtually unnoticed by anyone, the reconciliation bill passed by the House Sunday makes a fundamental change to the student loan program. At present, the federal government gives money to the banks to loan to students (not unlike the government giving money to insurance companies to insure poor people). However, the reconciliation bill changes the process for the student loans. From now on, the government will make the loans directly to the students, cutting out the middleman. This step is expected to save the government $61 billion in bank fees over the next 10 years. The money will partially be put back into education by raising the Pell grants from $5550 to $5975 and partially be used to reduce the federal deficit, which was why it was packaged with the health-insurance bill--to make the numbers look better. By having the bill reduce the deficit, the Blue Dogs get more cover when explaining to their constituents why they voted for it. But the savings are real, even if they come from education rather than health care. The funny thing here is that Congress had the nerve to take money away from the banks but not from the health insurance companies, which in the infinite scheme of things are small potatoes compared to the banks.

Majority of Governors in January 2011 Will be Newbies     Permalink

There are 37 gubernatorial races on the ballot this November, including 23 open seats. With North Dakota's governor, John Hoeven (R), a shoo-in for the Senate and Nevada's multiscandal governor. Jim Gibbons (R), a shoo-in for the dustbin of history, that is a sure 25 new faces in the governor's mansions. That's half the states right there. It would take only one loss by an incumbent to make the majority of governors new. Potentially vulnerable incumbents include Chet Culver (D-IA), Jan Brewer (R-AZ), Ted Strickland (D-OH), and Rick Perry (R-TX) among others. Larry Sabato has more on these races. Also note the link to "Governors races" on the menu below the map above. That page is frequently updated, often without mention on the front page.

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