Come Hell Or High Water, Democrats Want To Pass Health Care Reform

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 15, 2009

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Here’s why:

“In the House, the view of [California Rep. Henry] Waxman and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi is that we’ve waited two generations to get health care passed, and the 20 or 40 members of Congress who are going to lose their seats as a result are transitional players at best,” he said. “This is something the party has wanted since Franklin Roosevelt.” In this view, losses are just the price of doing something great and historic. (The strategist also noted that it’s easy for Waxman and Pelosi to say that, since they come from safely liberal districts.)

“At the White House, the picture is slightly different,” he continued. “Their view is, ‘We’re all in on this, totally committed, and we don’t have to run for re-election next year. There will never be a better time to do it than now.’”

“And in the Senate, they look at the most vulnerable Democrats — like [Christopher] Dodd and [Majority Leader Harry] Reid — and say those vulnerabilities will probably not change whether health care reform passes or fails. So in that view, if they pass reform, Democrats will lose the same number of seats they were going to lose before.”

All those scenarios have a certain logic (even if the Senate calculation undercounts the number of potentially vulnerable Democrats). But each scenario is premised on passing an unpopular bill that hurts the party. Even if there’s a strategic rationale for doing it, why are Democrats dead-set on hurting themselves?

“Because they think they know what’s best for the public,” the strategist said. “They think the facts are being distorted and the public’s being told a story that is not entirely true, and that they are in Congress to be leaders. And they are going to make the decision because Goddammit, it’s good for the public.”

And that’s not even the funny part:

. . . In the end, perhaps the most compelling explanation for Democratic behavior is that they are simply in too deep to do anything else. “Once you’ve gone this far, what is the cost of failure?” asks the strategist.

At that point — Republicans will love this — he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

This is driving policy?

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