Will Dems "Win" The Second Health Bill Debate?

Ezra Klein writes:

Health-care reform isn't getting repealed this week. It's getting re-debated. The GOP's control of the House -- and thus of at least some of the agenda -- gives them a second opportunity to make their case against the bill. It also, however, puts the Republicans in a position Democrats will recognize immediately: They're behind a specific piece of health-care legislation with sweeping implications, some of which are popular, and many of which are not.

(Emphasis supplied.) I disagree. The Republicans are getting behind being AGAINST the health bill. Ezra imagines some debate where the Media talks about what it would be like without the health bill. Good luck with that. The fact is Obama and Democrats do not know how to win a policy debate. President Obama is well liked personally and his numbers are up after his very "Presidential" performance regarding the Tucson tragedy (especially in comparison to the GOP), but he has changed no one's mind on any issue in his Presidency. More . . .

Indeed, President Obama's political style really invites that which Ezra really fears, GOP revisions to the health bill:

In the end, repeal will pass the House -- likely tomorrow -- and quickly die in the Senate. Then comes the more interesting phase of the fight over health-care reform: The GOP's effort at revision. Republicans, who already know that repeal will fail, are preparing to begin the longer and more complex campaign to replace, rewrite, or simply undermine various parts of the bill. [. . .] That will allow them to focus their energies on the parts of the legislation that are tough for Democrats to defend, rather than letting the Democrats force them to focus on the parts of the legislation that are easy for Democrats to defend. But this strategy has its own dangers: As the least popular bits of the bill are either successfully preserved or somehow changed, more and more of the bill's opponents will lose their reason for fighting the legislation.

I'm curious why Ezra thinks this is a "danger" for Republicans. They fought against the bill. They make "improvements." They continue to rail against "Obamacare" while continuing to make it more to their (and their contributors') liking. Sounds like a political win-win for the GOP to me.

Of course Ezra's the guy who said passing the health bill was going to be a political winner for Dems.

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    I guess the first question that came (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 10:13:59 AM EST
    to my mind was, did Dems win the debate the first time around?  Did passing a bill equate to winning the debate anywhere but outside the Congress, the White House  or the boardrooms of insurance and drug companies?

    I'm not sure it did.  

    And I'm not sure but that having the debate all over again in the Congress is going to result in anything other than making what little was good about the bill worse - or eliminate the good parts altogether - and make what was clearly bad about the bill even worse.

    And it will happen because Obama won't be able to take off the first-president-to-ever-reform-health-"care" mantle even if the end result is nothing any Democrat should want to be within 100 miles of.

    If the Dems had put together something that wasn't going to take years to be fully operational, if vast numbers of people had been able to start deriving measurable benefits from reform, if we were beginning to see costs go down and care go up, and so on, we wouldn't even be looking at a Republican House working on taking it all apart - we'd have strong Democratic majorities in both houses, and we'd be talking about something else.

    Because there are electoral rewards for good policy.

    So, the wholesale attempt to dismantle the Post-Partisan not-Affordable not-Care Act may fail because the Senate is - at least for now - not getting with the program, but that doesn't mean that when it starts to come apart on a piecemeal basis, Obama won't insist that the Dems "play nice" and give the GOP something as a show of see-we-really-CAN-get-along-and-get-things-done.

    Even if the policy behind it is terrible.

    Some things will survive (5.00 / 0) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 10:29:06 AM EST
    Mandates for people to buy overpriced insurance products, reducing the amount of deductions for health care expenses, excise tax on policies that provide good health care coverage, and cuts to Medicare.

    What will be abolished in a spirit of bipartisanship will be those few weak pesky regulations in the legislation that "stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive."

    Baucus will once again present the revised legislation to the industry lobbyists for final approval before bothering Obama with it.  


    See Jon Stewart from1/17/11 (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 03:39:48 PM EST
    The segment called "Tonal Recall" - all about how the Dems are whining about the naming of the "repeal of thejob-killing health care bill" instead of the actual substance of the bill.

    He nails it, as usual.

    not holding my breath either (none / 0) (#1)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 08:38:58 AM EST
    but it does seem that they may have learned a tiny bit since last time and I do hear some fairly logical and reasoned arguments in favor now which I did not before.

    I think its true that it is going to be harder to demonize the provisions of the bill that people like.  I think the test will be if the democrats can force the republicans to offer some alternative upfront.

    like I said. not holding my breath.

    Reasoned and . . . . zzzzzzzz (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 08:43:22 AM EST
    They blew the tax issue.

    They'll blow this as well.

    Dems just stink at politics.


    when you're led by a dem prez... (none / 0) (#4)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:18:40 AM EST
    ...who HATES politics, well, you're kind of doomed. Can you imagine wanting an accountant who hated numbers?  A chef who hated to cook?  It was always going to be a disaster.

    Ezra has become an embarrassment (none / 0) (#3)
    by azhealer on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 08:47:21 AM EST
    He defines "pseudointellectual".

    His flaw: he thinks he is smarter and sneakier than us... and that we are not smart enough to know he thinks it, let alone understand his inconsistencies.

    Applying the new evidence based model we are trying to put into health care to Ezra... he would be abandoned and discarded as a HC pundit for being wrong so many times.

    WaPo should say "write about anything but health care Ezra, you simply never get it right".

    The biggest winners in the Health Insurance Company Bailout bill are the insurers and big hospital systems... the losers, us dupes who got that bunch elected.

    And do I even need to mention the impact on the pro-choice movement that this law has had??? disgusting

    Is there actually going to be a debate? (none / 0) (#5)
    by republicratitarian on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:23:48 AM EST

    I'm surprised Obama hasn't (none / 0) (#6)
    by observed on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:25:28 AM EST
    already put some revisions on the table.

    Indeed (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:31:31 AM EST
    Not too late.

    Do you think any Dems will (none / 0) (#10)
    by observed on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:36:24 AM EST
    offer substantive improvements to the HCR act alongside the Republican proposals?
    I know the question practically answers itself... but one can hope.

    could be a part of (none / 0) (#11)
    by CST on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:36:48 AM EST
    this whole thing.

    Hey, give the man credit for how (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by MO Blue on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 10:31:08 AM EST
    truly progressive he is on regulations. He has stated that the child labor laws should remain in force. :-(

    Another bold, (none / 0) (#12)
    by lilburro on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:43:00 AM EST
    Leftist move by Obama.

    Let's end restrictive regulations on (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by observed on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 10:17:53 AM EST
    asbestos in construction and arsenic in water.
    Put America back to work!

    Everything is brand spanking new (none / 0) (#7)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:26:08 AM EST
    to Ezra Klein.  If he were really an astute observer of recent political history - the last 30 years and that's all he has to familiarize himself with to get the picture here - his predictions for GOP success with the "death by a thousand paper cuts" strategy of legislative destruction would be much, much brighter.  They are masters at this game.  When they were the majority, they had no cover, but as an opposition party they are brilliant at getting what they want and leaving the other guy holding the bag when the public figures out they've been wronged.  Since Obama and the Democrats seem to abandon their position and race to take the bag every single time, the Republicans really have it made.

    People keep saying that Obama won't sign any bills that undermine his healthcare bill, but I'll only believe that when I see it.

    I swear, he sounds just like the other (none / 0) (#9)
    by observed on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 09:32:39 AM EST
    Klein now. Just call him "Mini-Joke Klein"

    Jon Walker, one of my personal favorites (none / 0) (#17)
    by MO Blue on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:47:25 PM EST
    bloggers on the health insurance legislation, states "Democrats on Selling Obamacare: The Sixth Time's the Charm."

    I have honestly lost count of the number of times Democrats publicly predicted how, after "this event," they would somehow make their proposal popular.

    After the August 2009 town halls, there was talk of changing the momentum. After big stories about huge rate hikes from private insurance companies, that was going to be the opportunity to make the case. The bipartisan summit was going to be when Democrats would take control of the debate. After the passage of the bill, I was told the popularity would magically rise. With the first new provisions, like keeping 26-year-olds on their parents' plans and the high-risk pools kicked in, Democrats claimed, "now" the American people would see what a good law it was and start liking it.

    I think this is probably about the sixth "opportunity" Democrats have claimed to sell the public on health care reform, and I suspect it will be about as successful as the past five.

    There are indications (none / 0) (#18)
    by CST on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:15:21 PM EST
    that that is actually happening.


    "By 49%-40%, those polled say it was "a good thing" rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms -- as "enthusiastic" or "pleased" -- while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as "disappointed" or "angry.""

    There are also other polls that show no change.  But it's not out of the realm of possibilities that this is improving in popularity.  It was bound to improve a bit as soon as people figured out no one was gonna kill grandma.


    I was curious about your link, so (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Anne on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 01:36:59 PM EST
    I clicked on it and discovered that it was written March 24, 2010, right after the bill was signed into law.

    Doesn't surprise me that there would be some optimism in the days right after the bill was signed, but it also wouldn't surprise me to learn that the people who participated in the poll were responding less as a result of actual knowledge of the bill's provisions, and more as a result of how it was sold in the media.

    And setting aside for the moment that these were ratings for something that hadn't even been implemented at all, I guess I have to wonder even today about approval numbers for a plan that is largely still just an idea, with implementation of most of it still years away.

    Have some people been able to benefit from some of the changes?  Yes.  But so many of us who have seen our premiums, co-pays and deductibles continue to rise, and our coverage continue to decrease, also note that more people than ever are unable to afford the insurance, much less the care, are not so optimistic that - assuming the whole thing remains intact until it can be fully implemented - the benefits are ever going to outweigh the costs.

    And while people may be relieved that no one's going to send Grandma to the death panel, that is cold comfort when one still cannot afford essential care.