Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Trigger" option is it

Despite the persistent uncertainties and various matters in flux, I actually think we have a pretty clear picture of where health care reform legislation is headed. The trigger option is it.

Crass politics, now:
a.) If Sen. Ben Nelson supports it, that means the rest of the Senate Democratic moderates probably will support it, too.

b.) If Sen. Olympia Snowe also supports it, that probably gets Democrats to 60.

c.) If Nelson and Snowe support it, it seems reasonable to believe that some House Blue Dogs will also support it, for the same reasons.

d.) Last but not least, if Rep. Anthony Weiner says House liberals probably will accept it, they probably will.
Looks to me like the politics say that this will be the compromise. Or, of course, the whole effort could fall apart.


Erik said...

And after a resounding defeat of the democratic party in 2012 for complete inaction while having a super majority control of two branches of government the trigger is repealed by the Republican controlled congress and president. Huzzah compromise!

Rob said...

Maybe. You got a better idea?

Erik said...

Get Obama some cat herding lessons? Democrats can't pass a widely popular bit of legislation (that polls anywhere from 55%-75% approval) when it was in Obama's platform and is currently part of the democratic party's platform according to the literature:


Maybe progressives should stop worrying so much about "throwing their vote away" by voting third party when apparently they already are by voting Democrat.

Rob said...

But this is exactly what cat herding looks like. The Senate in particular has a whole bunch of ways to kill or hobble big legislation. That means, well, this is what you get.

We've talked about this before, so I am going to spend a little time on it. Welcome your response if you're so inclined.

To state the obvious, the fact that the Democrats have a big coalition is also the reason they have big majorities. You can cull ranks of conservative Dems, but at some point that would mean losing one or both houses of congress. Remember, the great majority of Blue Dogs and conservative Dem senators have very conservative constituencies, and they get people to vote for someone with a "D" by their name precisely by separating themselves from the liberals. I am not sure Dems get much in the long run out of running them out of handing those districts/states over to Republicans.

So, what tools are there?

One thing that I think would change the legislative calculus and fast would be doing away with (or somehow limiting) the filibuster. That would change the whole picture. And there are other institutional reforms within the Senate that would serve a similar goal.

Another is primary challenges. I tend to be of the mind that voting third-party is monumentally self-defeating and something you should do only if you really, really want to see the opposition party win elections. To me the better strategy for either base to advance its goals is to recruit and support primary challengers for pols they don't like. (For example, I have wondered whether the health reform debate would be different if Democratic elites had really thrown their weight behind Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman.) Primary challengers have a quantifiable effect of pulling pols in the direction of their party's base. Third parties have a quantifiable effect of electing opposing-party pols.

And another, last thought is that it's important for political activists and legislators and citizens to just keep trying. Health reform this year will either fail outright, or it will succeed in a way that seems insufficient to liberals. But there really is no rule that health legislation can only be taken up once every 20 years. Legislators can just keep bringing up new bills and amendments and keep trying to accomplish what they want to accomplish.