The Magazine

Obama's Fight to Win or Lose

Mitch McConnell takes a shrewd tack in the battle over Obamacare.

Nov 9, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 08 • By FRED BARNES
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The shrewdness of McConnell's emphasis on the vote to proceed will become clear when the final cloture vote--which would end debate on the bill--is taken. Democratic senators with qualms about Obamacare are likely to have voted for the motion to proceed, explaining they'll seek changes in the bill. In all likelihood, those changes won't be approved. Obamacare will have emerged from weeks of debate roughly the same. Will moderate Democrats then vote for cloture on the motion to end debate?

This is the key vote. Reid will likely need to hold all the Democrats. Here Obama's role is crucial. It may be up to him alone to keep Democrats from defecting. One or two votes could decide the outcome. If Obama fails, his health care initiative may die.

We know what the president will say in one-on-one meetings or phone calls. My presidency and our party's future are at stake. So is yours. If I lose, you lose too. If we don't pass health care reform now, we never will. We have to pass a bill. I promise I'll support the changes you want later--after the bill passes. Your constituents who oppose us now will come around. I'll help your reelection. And so on. If that doesn't work, Obama's aides can take the Chicago approach: Vote against us, and we'll make sure you regret it.

In a pinch, a president can usually get the one or two votes he needs on an important issue. The office of the presidency gives him the prestige and influence to do this. But influence can slip away. We'll find out soon if Obama's has.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.