Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Snowe's Officially Out

Here's a big surprise:

Senate Democrats are going to have to move forward on healthcare without a single Republican supporter after Sen. Olympia Snowe said Tuesday she could not back the Finance Committee’s bill.

Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed to win any Republican backer despite weeks of intense negotiations behind closed doors to strike a deal.Snowe (Maine), who was one of three Republicans who backed the $787 billion economic stimulus package, was being lobbied heavily by the White House, and some centrists view her refusal to strike a deal with Baucus as troubling. But concerns about how the plan would be paid for prompted her to back away in the hours before its release.

“I do have concerns and I’m not sure they can be addressed before he issues [legislation] tomorrow,” Snowe said.
It makes sense. "I would be disowned by my caucus and am terrified of going without the Conservative Machine" is an understandable concern.

So what now?

Faced with the prospect of having to pass legislation without Republican votes, Obama’s chief political adviser David Axelrod met with Senate and House Democrats on Tuesday to stress the importance of party unity on healthcare reform — a message most directly aimed at centrists who now are critical to its passage.

Democrats control 59 seats in the Senate. Without a single Republican vote, they would be forced to advance healthcare using a budgetary maneuver that requires only a simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Democrats are prepared to use budget reconciliation as a last resort.

“We’ve always had a place at the table for Republicans. There’s one there today. We hope it bears fruit,” he said. “If we can’t get the 60 votes we need, then we’ll have no alternative but to use reconciliation.”

Axelrod told senators that passing healthcare reform would give them a boost in the 2010 midterm election, according to a person who attended the meeting.

Axelrod also said that polls showed that public disapproval over Democratic reform proposals — which swelled in June and July — leveled off during the month of August, despite the publicity attracted by conservative protests, said another source in the meeting.

Axelrod’s speech seemed aimed at Democratic centrists who are concerned about the failure to attract Snowe

In August, Obama and Baucus narrowed their focus to winning over Snowe after it became clear that other Republican negotiators voiced sharp criticisms of Democratic proposals during the congressional recess.
Well, that's over. So can Baucus just retire his terrible, terrible "make health insurance exec rich" scheme and let HELP do its job now? It was only even intended to bring Republicans onside, and that's over.

Sure, Axelrod is talking about "centrists" because that's just a habit at this point: but you've already got Rockefeller and others stating unequivocably that they won't vote for BaucusCare in its present form, and a tidy little civil war going on in the House over the prospect of having to sell it to constituents. He needs to worry about progressives, too, because they aren't happy. Not at all.

If the Democrats must own this health care bill, then it is in their electoral interests to set the "win Republicans" mindset aside and make the bill the best possible piece of legislation they possibly can. If they do produce good legislation that helps people, I'm sure that the public will come onside, as it stops being "the unknown" and starts being something that the understand and take for granted. (Like Medicare, Social Security, civil rights, and everything else.)

And, yes, they should stop listening to the lobbyists. Not just because it's right, but because it's in their interests. Lobbyists may deliver potloads of money, but they don't deliver votes. They don't volunteer to go doorknocking, they don't get out the vote, they don't sell it to their neighbours, and they probably won't even spring for television advertising. The best-funded campaign in the world will avail you nothing if you can't win the votes. And, folks, you'd best believe me when I say that BaucusCare won't deliver a single one.

Let the Republicans bail. They're the party of Glenn Beck and signs with Obama-as-Hitler on them at this point. The only reason they're as influential as they are is because Democrats (and, naturally, the media) allow them to be. You fear them, you triangulate them, you adopt their framing—and everybody else follows suit. That's where their power comes from. Without it, they're nothing.

Stop cringing, for once, and take up the power that you always had.

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