A big win for the policymaking process, which should favor care and precision over haste in legislating. And a big loss for the President of the United States, and his majority in Congress:
It’s official. The Senate is giving up on moving comprehensive healthcare legislation this summer. It means that President Obama’s goal of getting to a vote by the August recess is now out of reach.
Thursday’s move to postpone Senate action on health reform capped a week of harsh words across party lines – partisan bickering that Mr. Obama referenced in a prime-time press conference Wednesday night and again at a town hall meeting in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Thursday.
But with Democrats controlling both the House and Senate, the voices that counted most are the opposition voices from within Democratic ranks – especially lawmakers from conservative districts that gave Democrats their majority.
Nine freshmen Democrats, many from conservative-leaning swing states, called on the Senate Finance Committee this week to keep working on a bipartisan solution.
“In the face of exploding debt and deficits, however, we are concerned that too little focus has been given to the need for cost containment,” they wrote.
On the House side, fiscal conservatives are blocking progress toward a final bill until their concerns are met over how to pay for reform, without creating massive, long-term federal deficits.
“The Republicans are a problem because they are the president’s most vocal critics, but he can’t get around the fact that this is a Democratic Congress and he has a filibuster-proof Senate – and he wasn’t able to meet his deadline,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey.
“There are fundamental differences over some huge issues within the Democratic caucus,” he adds. “Come fall, the Democratic Party will have had to come to a consensus over this. If not, the legislation won’t pass.”
Let that last part be repeated: The failure to meet the August deadline did not occur because of Republicans. It occurred because of Democrats.
Again, this was the best development that could have been hoped for at this stage, given the undue haste with which Congress and the President were trying to craft a reform package, but anymore such political failures, and people will conclude that this President and the Democrats in Congress simply cannot govern. And well they should.