For a health care plan that the American people overwhelming want despite the “obstructionist” role of conservatives, it is amazing just how much work Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have to do in order to secure votes.
The first time around, it took backroom deals that will be noted history books decades down the road. Now, even that and a series full of arm-wrestling meetings might not be enough in this critical election year to secure the necessary votes.
The arm-twisting has certainly not been as effective as advertised, even among Pelosi and Reid. Whereas Pelosi—positioned in a safe electoral district—has been quoted as saying that health care is worth losing elections over, Reid—currently under heat in a highly competitive race in Nevada—has not been quite as vocal with that message.
Neither has been as loud as the American public on the matter, which is why Democrats are delaying a call to the mat for affirmative votes in favor of the plan.
Recent polls have indicated that everything the Democrats hoped to use to win over the American people—cost containment and an immediate response to current health care woes, for example—are playing against them. Overwhelming, Americans feel that the overall plan’s cost is being understated by the Democrats. More damaging to their health care cause and, moreso, to President Obama’s legacy, most Americans believe that the Obama campaign pledge to spare the middle class of a tax increase will follow the lifecycle of President Bush’s famous “Read My Lips” mantra of two decades ago.
Despite all of the “Party of No” labeling and Coffee Party appearances, the impact of the Tea Party and its fury toward continued runaway spending in Washington plays heavy on the minds of House of Representatives members whose lease on their congressional seats expires in November. The bill was controversial enough, even with the additions of the Stupak Amendment and other conditions to “sweeten the deal” for conservative Democrats and some potential Republicans. However, with the current political environment, the incentive to jam through a controversial bill may not outweigh the cost at the polls for many congressmen, considering the amount of political activism throughout the nation since the 2008 elections.
Twisting the arms of several members of each house of Congress has led to very public “backroom deals” that have bordered on flat-out bribes for legislators on behalf of their states. These occurrences have been coupled with bad press reports (e.g., polls indicating that Americans want to scale back the deal or start over), bad quotes (e.g., Pelosi’s quote saying that the bill must be passed before people can see what’s actually in it), and bad karma (e.g., having the late Ted Kennedy’s seat filled by a filibuster-breaking Republican, thus forcing the Democrats to consider the highly-unpopular option of reconciliation) to forge a Democratic image of bullying Congress—and huge sections of America—for their version of health care reform, not governing with a steady, populist hand on the pulse of the people. When attempting to contrast their party with the manufactured image of the GOP as the party of heavy-handed ideologues, nothing could be worse for the Democrats, even if they win in March before November’s de facto referendum.
Pelosi (and, to a lesser extent, Reid) may be able to coordinate off-the-ropes maneuvers to re-take control of the health care debate in time to secure enough support this week. However, as many have noted, if they had the support at this time, they would have called for a vote on the floor. If the Democrats continue down this path against the voiced concerns of a majority of Americans, perhaps both their health care plan—and their time in leadership on Capitol Hill—may be down on the mat despite their best efforts to pin down the votes.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator, podcast co-host, and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. He will be featured on XM Radio’s “The New School” this Saturday at 1 PM EST on POTUS and the Frederick Douglass Foundation Leadership Summit in Washington, DC starting March 18. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .