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ObamaCare: Twenty-One Key Democrats — and Three Things for Them to Consider

Counting the health care votes.

9:30 AM, Mar 3, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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ObamaCare: Twenty-One Key Democrats — and Three Things for Them to Consider

ObamaCare supporters are trying to take encouragement from a new Associated Press survey, which shows that nine of the 39 House Democrats who are in the enviable position of having voted "no" on ObamaCare the first time around have now either "declined to state their positions or [have] said they were undecided about the proposed legislation" this time around.  These nine Democrats, on average, represent districts where Democratic presidential candidates have done 11 percentage points worse than the national average over the last three elections, and 35 points worse than in Massachusetts.  They are not likely to jump aboard the good ship ObamaCare, which sits ablaze in the water after having been fatally struck by a Scott Brown torpedo.   
Nevertheless, five of these members are among the nine Democratic opponents of ObamaCare whom Andy Wickersham and I have previously listed as most needing to have their constituents encourage them to stay the course:  Scott Murphy (N.Y.), Michael McMahon (N.Y.), Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.), Glenn Nye (Va.), and the retiring Brian Baird (Wash.).  (Rep. Baird, at 53, has many years ahead of him to contribute to American society and will have to decide whether to cast a vote that will benefit his party, or a vote that will benefit this administration — while focusing voters’ wrath even more squarely on his party.)  The other four are John Adler (N.J.), Larry Kissel (N.C.), Eric Massa (N.Y.), and Allen Boyd (Fla.). 

An even bigger problem for the Democrats than somehow turning these members around is the strong likelihood that many other members are salivating at the thought of switching their votes to "no" and saving their careers.  Clark Judge writes, "'Blue Dogs want health care to come up again,” said a long-time veteran of the House in a closed door briefing last Monday. 'So they can vote against it.’”
In addition to Bart Stupak (Mich.), who has said that he won't support the Senate bill as written, of the Democrats who voted "yes" the first time around, nine are perhaps most likely to switch their votes to "no":  Tom Perriello (Va.), John Salazar (Colo.), Chris Carney (Pa.), Zack Space (Ohio), Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Kathleen Dahlkemper (Pa.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), and Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), who's now running for the Senate.  All nine represent districts where Republican presidential candidates have swept the last three elections.  In addition, prior ObamaCare supporters John Spratt (S.C.), Bill Foster (Ill.), and Melissa Bean (Ill.) each represent districts where Republican presidential candidates have won by double-digits in at least two of the last three elections.

Among others, all 21 of these members — most of whom represent solidly red districts, and all of whom represent either red or purple districts — would be well served to think about three things before deciding how they would cast a final vote:
The bill’s unpopularity:  Members now face the choice between siding with the 73 percent of Americans who have told CNN that they don't want ObamaCare, or with the 25 percent who have said that they do.  In a three-way race in the CNN poll between starting over, giving up, and passing something like the current bills, ObamaCare was routed by 23 percent by start over and finished in a dead-heat with give up.  When, after a year of debate, your bill can’t clearly edge give up for the silver, maybe it’s not a good bill.  
In poll after poll and in three key elections, the American people have made it abundantly clear that congressional Democrats will either vote to keep health care in the private sector, or the people will vote to return congressional Democrats to the private sector.  The notion that passing a highly unpopular bill would somehow assuage the voters — who, in this fantasy, would reward the Democrats for succeeded in doing something, even if that something is what the voters warned them not to do — never passed the sniff test and no longer passes the laugh test.  If the Democrats pass ObamaCare at this point, they will get annihilated in 2010 and will invite a similar annihilation in 2012, with the repeal of ObamaCare to follow.
Taxpayer-funded abortion:  The nine members mentioned above as being perhaps the most likely to switch their “yes” votes to “no,” all voted for the Stupak Amendment.  That amendment was added to the House bill right before its passage to preserve longstanding protections against taxpayer-funded abortions.  The Senate, however, scrapped the Stupak language and could not reinsert it through the "budget reconciliation" process even if it wanted to do so.  So, for these nine House members, and 21 others who also supported Stupak and voted for the overall bill, something will now have to give — either their opposition to taxpayer-funded abortion, or their support for ObamaCare.  On both issues, they might want to consult the polls before they vote.  
Reconciliation renege:  The Democrats have apparently now determined that, for a variety of legal and practical reasons, the House would need to take the next step in the passage of ObamaCare.  This would keep Americans from focusing on the unprecedented nature of having the Senate pass a major change to American society not through bipartisan deliberation, negotiation, and compromise, but through barring the minority from exercising the longstanding practice of filibustering — which Senator Obama once said “would change the character of the Senate forever.”  
But while having the House go first would take Americans’ focus off of the problematic and distasteful nature of the Senate’s potential action, it would also fundamentally change the political dynamic in a crucial way:  For if the House were to pass the Senate bill, there would no longer be any strong incentive for the administration or the Senate to pursue “budget reconciliation.”  To the contrary, they would both have every incentive not to pursue that highly controversial process.  
Senators want nothing to do with “reconciliation” — whether politically or for what it would do to their chamber — and they already like their own bill (which the House would then already have passed) just fine.  The President would then already have gotten a bill through both chambers, and while House members would complain powerlessly, he would dip his pen in the ink and visualize himself in the history books.  He might even try to score a few extra political points by saying, As you know, we intended to use the reconciliation process to make a few small changes to the Senate bill.  While I know that there was some disagreement from some people, I think that that process would have been entirely appropriate to pursue.  But some people are uncomfortable with it, and I think that’s a legitimate concern.  It’s important to remember that our democratic institutions deserve the benefit of the doubt.  Also, the American people understandably think that we’ve been focused on health care long enough.  So that’s why I am making the decision not to pursue “reconciliation.”  Instead, I am moving on to a jobs bill….

House members would be left holding the bag.  Target squarely on their chests, they would now get to face their fuming constituents after having passed a $2.5 trillion bill that would allow public funding of abortion, would send $100 million to Nebraska, $300 million to Louisiana, $100 million to Connecticut, would exempt South Florida's Medicare Advantage enrollees from annual $2,100 cuts in Medicare Advantage benefits, would raise taxes, raise deficits, raise health costs, empower Washington, reduce liberty, politicize medicine, and jeopardize the quality of health care.  Most of all, they would feel the citizenry's wrath for having voted to pass a bill that only 25 percent of Americans support.
Right now, the House holds all the power over ObamaCare.  Nothing can happen unless it acts.  But if its members are foolish enough to expect promises not made in writing to be followed through on at a future date, they deserve every bit of backlash the voters would have in store for them.

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