Over the last several days, old friends and family around the country have contacted me with the same questions: 'Do they have the votes? What is going to happen?' Maybe they think that, living inside the Beltway, I get some secret newsletter that can divine what Congress will do. To all of them and you, let me be clear: I have no idea what is going to happen tonight. We have slipped well beyond any rational political thought or calculation. By any traditional analysis, this bill would have been buried long ago. So, while I don't know what is going to happen, it is worth thinking a bit about what is going on. On that I have something to say.
The Democrats and the White House are lost in a legislative "fog of war" right now. They are focused on twisting enough arms, offering jobs and negotiating specific "deals" (bribes) to get them to 216 votes. Their attention and energy is focused exclusively on a final vote in the House tonight. No one is looking even one minute beyond that horizon. They are like a general who pours all his reserves into taking a symbolic bridge, never realizing that his lines have already collapsed and his flanks have been turned. They may take the bridge and get to 216 votes. (I've learned to never bet against Congressional leadership and an Administration united for a single legislative victory. ) But, they have already lost the war. They have deluded themselves that if they can...just...get...this...bill...passed, the public's anger and attention will subside, they can put health care 'behind them' and they can focus on other 'popular' measures that will shore up their election prospects in November.
What they don't realize is that today's vote isn't the end, but just a new beginning in the debate over health care. Buckle up, because if they manage to cobble together enough votes to pass the Senate Health Bill today, we're set for weeks and perhaps months of a constitutional and political crisis the likes of which we haven't seen in our lifetimes.
In a matter of hours after House passage of the Senate Bill, the state of Virginia will file suit
in federal court. The Commonwealth will be joined in the suit by a dozen other states. I expect a flood of additional lawsuits. The suits will be based on the provision that requires every American to purchase health insurance. (This is how the Dems 'crack down' on the insurance industry; by requiring everyone to buy its product?) Because this is an individual mandate, virtually every American has standing to file suit against this provision. Also, it is in direct conflict with state law in at least two states, Idaho and Virginia.
While the legal battles wage on, expect an enormous public back-lash against the Democrats. Longtime political observers will recall the backlash
after Democrats passed a "catastrophic health care" bill in the 80s. That event pales in comparison to what is brewing. Yesterday, around 30,000 people protested on the steps of the Capitol, an event that was organized in just a little over 24 hours. In cities throughout the country, protests and rallies broke out, each attended by hundreds of citizens with only a few hours notice. This kind of spontaneous public outcry has never happened in any of our lifetimes. Today, many of these protesters are buoyed by a faith that reason will prevail and the Democrats will stand down from their position of willful disdain for the American people. If that doesn't happen tonight, then we will have fallen into totally unchartered territory. It is without hyperbole that I say I am at times afraid of what may ensue.
I have told my Democrat friends--yes, I have many--that they are missing the simple fact that people are really scared today. The economy is nowhere close to recovering and, in some places, may be getting worse. Millions of people have been unemployed for a very long time and untold millions more live in fear of it. Spending, deficits and debt have grown beyond the hypothetical world of economists and into a realm that the average person understands. Against this, the Democrats are now steaming towards the greatest expansion in government ever and, more importantly, into the part of our lives that commands our deepest fears, our health and mortality. That they have done so in an openly corrupt manner, with side deals, special exemptions, special interest favors and patronage (a judgeship, really?
), betrays a contempt for the legislative and political process that is almost unfathomable. Worse, they raise the specter that the government is an interest, separate, distinct and opposed to the people.
The Democrats cannot do this. Sure, they may get the votes to pass the Senate bill tonight, but ultimately they will be defeated. A representative democracy cannot long endure a political class that is so out of touch with the populace. In some respects, what happens tonight is almost beside the point. The politics are set. Some Democrats are deluding themselves that they can put this behind them and somehow survive in November. They are most assuredly wrong.
I'm beginning to think that George Soros is a GOP plant. He has invested millions an in array of leftist organizations, but rather than providing a foundation for progressive policies, they have devolved into little more than a giant echo-chamber. Instead of trying to build public support, groups like Center for American Progress and Media Matters simply spin--lamely, by the way--any facts that counter their narrative. A rational political party absorbs new information and public opinion and adjusts its policies. The leftist cocoon inoculates Democrats from this, convincing them that their policies are actually popular, in spite of every piece of data, and cheers them on as they march off the cliff into political oblivion.
(Of course, it could be that Soros has simply made very large, leveraged bets against the dollar and wants to maximize deficit-busting policies, but that is speculation for another day.)
And off a cliff is exactly where the Democrat party is going. In 1994, the party lost 54 seats in the House, losing control for the first time in 40 years. 54 seats is my opening bid for November 2010. They will lose that amount if ObamaCare somehow fails tonight. If it passes, their losses will be much worse in the House (hell, I'd take odds on a 100 seat loss) and they likely will lose the Senate as well. Worse for the parties future, they will be decimated in state house races, which is critical to the future of they party. The winners of these races will draw new legislative districts next year. A GOP rout in statehouses could doom the Democrats for a decade.
The Democrats are especially doomed because of a final trap they have set for themselves. Their need to game the CBO score to minimize the buckets of borrowed money that are necessary to fund ObamaCare has created for them the ultimate political headache. All the taxes and fees necessary to fund government's expansion take effect right way, but all the benefits, expanded coverage, etc., don't take effect for several years. As soon as ObamaCare is signed into law, it will exert a strong gravitational pull on the entire health care sector. Premiums will rise, taxes will increase, providers and physicians will leave the market while all the "good" things in the bill, i.e. expanded coverage, insurance subsidies, etc., will be years away. All pain and no gain for four years. That is the exact opposite of good politics.
So, looking to tonight's vote, I am torn. The policy wonk in me desperately wants the bill to fail. There are simply far too many provisions with sweeping consequences that we can't fully imagine. There is too much damage that could be done and I don't fully trust that the GOP will repeal every last provision. Clearly, the Democrats are betting that they won't. They believe that, even if they have to lose their majority, enough of ObamaCare will remain that health care dominates our political discourse forever and they will always be able to outbid the GOP on the issue.
That said, the political animal in me is hoping they find 216 votes. A victory for ObamaCare tonight, It will spark a public revolt that will wipe clean the progressive agenda for at least a generation. In battle, it is critically important to have clarity; to understand the fight you are in. If the Democrats pass ObamaCare tonight no one will have any doubts about the battle ahead. So, my political instincts say, "Bring it On. Let's sort this out once and for all."
Tonight, if the Democrats get 216 votes, every one of those "yes" votes will be the deciding vote on ObamaCare. It will also be the deciding vote on the Democrats' political oblivion.