The White House wants Congress to vote on health care reform before March 18, when the president leaves for the Pacific. Congress says the White House is being ridiculously optimistic. The latest whip count is here. "Undecideds" and "Lean Nos" still outnumber the "Lean Yeses."
This won't be the first White House deadline Congress has blown. Remember, Obama initially wanted this legislation on his desk before last summer's August recess. And no wonder! If that had happened, those pesky town hall meetings may not have been so rambunctious and public opinion may not have headed south so quickly. Lucky for Congress, liberals are forgiving and the deadline is always pushed back.
A confusing legislative process has not masked the bill's fundamental weakness: its cost. Fifty-seven percent in the latest Rasmussen poll say the bill will hurt the economy because of its spending and tax increases. Universal health insurance is something a rich country in a time of plenty can afford -- not a rich country that is struggling to emerge from a painful recession and whose entitlement programs are more or less insolvent. As Greg Mankiw notes, "Even if you believe that the spending cuts and tax increases in the bill make it deficit-neutral, the legislation will still make solving the problem of the fiscal imbalance harder, because it will use up some of the easier ways to close the shortfall." If the bill struggles to find supporters for the rest of the year, it will be because of abortion and cost.
Obama knows how to make an audience swoon. But he still hasn't figured out a way to make a free lunch.