Several Key Senate Democrats Probably Want the GOP's Scott Brown to Win the Massachusetts Special Election

If State Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) wins the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacancy on January 19th, several Democrats might be relieved. The Senate balance would become 59 to 41, and a few moderates would no longer be on the hot seat. They would not be pressured to provide the crucial 60th vote necessary to pass the health care reform bill and other legislation.
Among lawmakers who might breath a sign of relief if the GOP’s Brown wins are Senators Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Joe Lieberman (CT), Kent Conrad (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Evan Bayh (IN).
These lawmakers worked as a team to stop the House passed version of the public option.
Lieberman spoke for many of them, “If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote because I believe debt can break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today.” The Senators won on the public option, Nelson and Landrieu cut lucrative side deals with Majority Leader Reid, but since then the lawmakers have had to cope with outraged voters back home.
Nelson is running 30% behind Gov. Dave Heineman (R-NE) in a hypothetical 2012 matchup, and has said it was a mistake to take up health care this year. Lincoln is 10 points behind her GOP challengers, and Lieberman has seen a 25% drop in his approval rating. It is no wonder all of these Senators are far from happy with the health care bill which passed the Senate.
The pressure on them to once again vote in favor of health care reform is enormous. Every one of these Senators has already made statements questioning the fiscal soundness of the bill. The lawmakers are also well aware of the gimmicks used to get the bill through the Senate. The increased taxes go into effect immediately but people will have to wait until 2014 for benefits. They also realize the bill is not deficit neutral, nor will it save money in the long run.
Finally, if Brown does win on Tuesday he should thank Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) was in office when Kerry began his 2004 presidential campaign. Democrats thought Kerry could win the presidential election, and they did not want Romney to have the power to appoint a Republican to fill a Senate vacancy until 2006. They changed the law to require a special election rather than a gubernatorial appointment in the event of a vacancy. If the law had not been changed Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) could have immediately appointed a Democrat to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacancy.

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Problems with Health Care’s Public Option

Health care spending in every Western country with a public option has been growing faster since 2000 than it has been in the United States. The public option is really the government option. It will not promote competition, it will eliminate it. It would sooner or later takeover over our health care system. It will deprive people of choice. If it was just another insurance policy, then we would have 1,501 opportunities.
President Obama has frequently reassured us that, if we are happy with our present insurance, there is no cause for alarm—our right to keep it will not be denied. Of course, it will no longer exist in a few years, so the right to keep it is pointless. A new “public option” would provide employers with a strong financial incentive to drop insurance for their employees, to give way to the public plan. Private insurers will be forced out of the game as the public plan draws unlimited credit from a government.
No one knows how much this public option will cost. Some estimates peg the 10-year cost at $1.7 trillion. When the government introduced Medicare in 1965, the estimated cost to taxpayers by 1990 was supposed to be $9 billion. In reality, the cost was $67 billion — a seven-fold miscalculation. So what happens if this public option ends up costing just three times as much as estimated? That’s a 10-year cost of $5.1 trillion to taxpayers. How will we pay for it? Through tax increases. It is interesting that one of the first arguments put forward by supporters of the public option is that it won’t result in a government-run system like single-payer health care. That may be so at first, but it puts the nation on the road toward single-payer.
The UK’s National Health Service is socialized medicine and it produces some of the worst health outcomes in the industrialized world. Britain is the Western state where you’d least want to have cancer or a stroke or heart disease. Ours is now a country where thousands of people are killed in hospitals for reasons unrelated to their original condition. Britain has become a place where foreigners fear to fall ill.

Should Republicans Shut Down the Senate Over Health Care

Democrats definitely do not have the 60 votes necessary to pass the health care public option, and they may now resort to the reconciliation process which requires only 51 votes. Conservative activist Gary Bauer is urging a GOP shutdown of the Senate in response. He may be correct but my fear is what happened when Republicans shut down the government for 25 days in 1995 when a compromise could not be reached on the budget.
A shut down of the Senate is not analogous to a shut down of the government, but the 1995 effort resulted in a significant setback to the Republican Party. Bill Clinton appeared to be the winner in the budget battle, and it gave him significant advantages going into his re-election campaign. We should of course make a major effort to stop the public option, but if we fail after a reasonable time, it might be just as well to take this issue to the voters in 2010.
The government shutdown of ’95 wound up closing down federal agencies which provided essential services and inconvenienced many people. This turned the tide against Republicans. Even if Democrats are successful with the reconciliation route, they would pay dearly for it in 2010. Republican could wait for the 2010 election because the public option is not scheduled to in effect until 2013.
On the other hand, Republicans could well have a mandate for a shutdown and they may not lose favor with constituents. Reconciliation would clearly be an undemocratic way of getting this done, when the majority of the public is opposed. During the 1994 shut down, Republicans were exposed because Speaker Gingrich added a personal bent to the proceedings which made it look extremely petty. Clinton got a major break when Speaker Gingrich made a widely-reported complaint about being snubbed by the White House. Former GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay called it “the mistake of his Gingrich’s life”. Delay writes in his book, No Retreat, No Surrender:
“He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One…Newt had been careless to say such a thing, and now the whole moral tone of the shutdown had been lost. What had been a noble battle for fiscal sanity began to look like the tirade of a spoiled child. The revolution, I can tell you, was never the same.”
Gingrich’s complaint resulted in the perception that he was acting in a petty, egotistical manner. Later polling demonstrated that the event badly damaged Gingrich politically.

Obama’s Grass Roots Lose Enthusiasm

New York Times: Health Debate Fails to Ignite Obama’s Grass Roots by Jeff Zeleny
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/15/health/policy/15ground.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
Iowa is where the Obama phenomenon began but now “only the most diehard of supporters attend events.” If the New York Times is saying this you know the President’s agenda is in serious trouble. At the time of the Iowa presidential precinct caucuses the major issue was Iraq. The left was outraged when Bush announced a 21,000 troop surge for Iraq in 2007. Obama implemented a 21,000 troop surge for Afghanistan and they yawned.
Byron York noted this in his most recent column in National Review: “I attended the first YearlyKos/NetrootsNation convention, in 2006, and have kept up with later ones, and it’s safe to say that while people who attended those gatherings couldn’t stand George W. Bush in general, their feelings were particularly intense when it came to opposing the war in Iraq.
“It animated their activism; they hated the war, and they hated Bush for starting it. They weren’t that fond of the fighting in Afghanistan, either. Now, with Obama in the White House, all that has changed. . . . Not too long ago, with a different president in the White House, the left was obsessed with America’s wars. Now, they’re not even watching.”
The “fierce moral urgency” drained out of the antiwar movement as soon as a Democrat was elected President. Over 13 million people belong to his Organizing for America group and their passionate opposition to the Iraq War rocked the nation a year ago. They have paid organizers in 44 states and they have sponsored TV ads promoting the President’s agenda on health care and climate change. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle is covering major anti-Obama rallies by noting the events are the largest conservative demonstrations the city has seen in many years.
The President is an articulate spokesman for his cause. He has been working diligently but so far he is not having a major impact. He has recruited a few Blue Dogs on the public option such as Mike Ross (D-AR), but September should be a grim month for those supporting the Obama agenda.
The article notes, “Obama engendered such passion last year that his allies believed they were on the verge of creating a movement that could be mobilized again. But if a week’s worth of events are any measure here in Iowa, it may not be so easy to reignite the machine that overwhelmed Republicans a year ago. . . . ‘People came out of the woodwork for Obama during the campaign, but now they are hibernating,’ Ms. Smith said.”
Dr. Phil Cantrell of Longwood University in Virginia recently wrote to me and said: “You are exactly right about the anti-Iraq War passion. As a professor on several different college and university campuses during those years, I saw my (almost entirely) liberal colleagues incite their students into opposition to the war in an overt way I had not seen before with politics in the classroom. I was “advised” by a much older colleague at Ohio University that I should excuse my students absences when they attended anti-war rallys, especially since, as I was told, ‘This generation was not always treated so kindly by conservative, 1950s era professors when they were protesting Vietnam.’
“I believe that this type of things lies at the heart of the enormous student vote that turned out for Obama as liberal baby-boomer professors saw themselves relieving the Vietnam War. Also, the Today Show ,if you remember, posted daily “body-counts” just as was done during Vietnam to drum up opposition. I believe the student vote will thus be much harder to rally in 2012.”

Public Opinion Shift Demonstrated in Pennsylvania Senate Race

Angry crowd jeers Specter By Luis Fabregas, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Friday, August 14, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/valleynewsdispatch/s_638276.html”

A major change is happening throughout the nation. As the article above notes, “About 1,500 people waited for hours under the beating sun for the town hall meeting on health care reform. The 200 or so allowed into the hall greeted the Republican-turned-Democrat with rounds of thundering jeers reminiscent of a Jerry Springer show. Some stood up and applauded, and so began a 90-minute showdown marked by passionate pleas for action, interruptions from angry hecklers and incessant chants that drowned out Specter’s call for civility. ‘Read the bill!’ the crowd roared. ‘We will be taxed!’
Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) is now trailing his GOP opponent by 12 points after having a huge lead a few months ago. The electorate is energized and the center is moving to the right. Unlike many of his colleagues, Senator Specter does deserve credit for showing up at town hall meetings during the August recess.
Specter has always had difficult re-election battles and he is a diligent campaigner. This powerful message goes way beyond the Specter campaign. The grassroots left was energized last year, and now the grassroots right has awakened. They may go back to sleep after cap and trade and the health care public option bite the dust. I am surprised this has happened so early in the Obama administration.
I hope Specter wins his primary. He switched parties but he is continuing his opposition to the union card check legislation. His primary opponent, Rep. Joseph Sestak (D-PA) is a retired Admiral. Obama is keeping the Pentagon budget constant without any increases. Sestak wants to make significant cuts in DoD spending and because he was a flag officer he will receive prominent attention from the news media.
The feedback for the town hall meetings demonstration that people are concerned about a deficit which has increased ten times from two years ago. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says they are “un-American,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls them “evil mongers,” and Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) says they are similar to the Nazi’s. One reason these lawmakers are angry is because independent voters are now siding 2-1 with opponents of the public option, the stimulus and cap and trade.

Key Democratic Senators Oppose Public Option

Moderate Democrats understand public opinion polls and that is a major reason why the Obama agenda is sinking on Capitol Hill. Democratic Senators Kent Conrad (ND), Max Baucus (MT) and Ben Nelson (NE) are now expected to oppose the public option on health care reform. The Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin (IL), says he can accept a bill without a public option. The President’s lobbying has been focused on the public option and this will be a major setback for the Administration.
These Democrats have been citing a study by the Lewin Group indicating that a public option could entice 119 million people to drop their private coverage, and it would be a death blow to the insurance industry. The largest existing public health programs — Medicare and Medicaid — are the main reason that the government’s long-term finances are in shambles. Sen. Conrad doesn’t believe a public option will reduce costs. He has noted “We don’t need government-run grocery stores or government-run gas stations to ensure that Americans can buy food and fuel at reasonable prices.” Conrad said he would not vote for any health care reform that funded abortions, care for illegal immigrants or a plan that mandates end-of-life counseling.
A public option bill can not pass the Senate but 64 House Democrats are now on record saying they “simply cannot vote” for a bill that “at minimum” does not have a public option plan. They will not vote for a “co-ops” compromise. Rep. Weiner says the real opposition number is 100. There are 257 House Democrats and if you take away 64 the remaining 193 are well below the 218 needed for passage.
Liberal activist groups are working full blast on a grass roots campaign to convince progressive lawmakers to take a pledge in solid support of the public option. They do not want the President to compromise. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) just explained why the Pelosi plan scares many people: “I think if we had a good public option it would lead to single payer system.” In addition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says: “We’re going to have some type of public option, call it ‘co-op,’ call it what you want.” From the start, the Administration has always held that “the goal is non-negotiable; the path is,” as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel put it.

House Speaker Calls Protestors "Un-American"

Citizen outrage is continuing at a fever pitch and Congressional schedules during the August recess are in sharp contrast to a year ago. Many lawmakers are in hiding and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) is refusing to visit his district this month. Others have canceled town hall meetings in favor of a call in format where opposition voices can not be heard. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) did not show up for her event and it was taken over be her GOP opponent.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is calling right wing protesters “Un-American” in Monday’s “USAToday,” but their message is being heard. Despite the Speaker’s comments I haven’t seen any evidence that the outrage this August is fabricated “AstroTurf.” We do know the drug industry will be spending $150 million on TV commercials supporting the Obama plan, which is more than McCain spent during his presidential campaign. According to Craigslist, the Obama supporters are being paid: http://sacramento.craigslist.org/search/jjj?query=obama&catAbbreviation=jjj
Many moderate Democrats and a few liberals are now voicing doubts about moving such complex and costly legislation as health care reform and cap and trade too quickly. “No one wants to tell the Speaker that she’s moving too fast and they damn sure don’t want to tell the President,” says Rep. Charles Rangel ( D-NY), the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
I often disagree with Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist, but this statement is accurate: “If Mr. Obama can’t recapture some of the passion of 2008, can’t inspire his supporters to stand up and be heard, health care reform may well fail.”
According to Jennifer Rubin of Commentary: “One has the sense that lawmakers are just stunned that ordinary citizens would have the temerity to speak up. They simply never encounter people who disagree so bluntly and so loudly with them. Until now, the average town hall was a lightly attended snooze-fest where a few seniors came to complain about late checks and a question or two came up about a local pork-barrel project.
“But then citizens got the idea that they could come out—in droves—and give their representatives a piece of their mind. It is all quite a culture shock for the lawmakers, who seem blissfully unaware that somewhere in just about every crowd there is someone with a video camera or a cell phone recording how they respond to criticism. And so far, it’s not a pretty sight.”
It is also good to remember 2003 when Hillary Clinton said, “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you’re not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.”