The Blog

What Will Obama Tell the Senate Democrats?

12:59 PM, Dec 15, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

According to Politico's Mike Allen and Carrie Budoff Brown, the president will tell the Senate Democratic caucus that if health care reform "fails now, no other president will attempt it, aides said."

Hmm. Something tells me that, no matter what happens in the current health care debate, liberal Democrats are not going to abandon one of their top priorities for the last sixty years just because Obama failed to persuade 60 senators (and the public) that his plan is the right plan.

Nor would a failure to pass health care reform doom Obama's presidency. Clinton, let's remember, failed to pass universal health care, but he still broadened government-subsidized health care by signing SCHIP into law. He was reelected in 1996 and left office with solid popularity ratings despite being the second president in American history to be impeached. Plenty of Americans recall the second Clinton term as an era of broad-based prosperity built on technological innovation, free trade, and balanced budgets.

It's true that if Obama loses the health care fight, he will not be the "transformative" American president many liberals dream of. A loss could also hurt congressional Democrats in the 2010 midterms. (Then again, so could a win.) But Obama's presidency is still in its first year. And if he moves to the center, as Clinton did, he'll be able to win passage of small-scale reforms to the health care system, with bipartisan support.

Joe Biden's idea that health care reform is "going to be kicked back for a generation" if it doesn't pass the Senate in 2009 is not only false. It's an argument from desperation, too.