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Monday, March 15, 2010

Reich: Health Care and the Political Lessons of History

Robert Reich urges Democrats to remember the past:

Health Care: 2010 and 2004, and the Political Lessons of History, by Robert Reich: Health care reform is necessary, and House Democrats should vote for it because it’s best for the nation.
But they should also remember the political lessons of history. ... As the White House and the House Democratic leadership try to line up 216 votes to pass health care reform — and as Republicans ... try to kill it – I can’t help thinking back to 1994...
I was serving in the Clinton administration at the time. In the first months of 1993 it had looked as if Clinton’s health care proposal would sail through Congress. But the process dragged on and by 1994 it had bogged down. We knew health care was imperiled but none of us knew failure to pass health care would doom much of the rest of Clinton’s agenda and wrest control of Congress out of the hands of the Democrats. In retrospect, it’s clear Republicans did know. 
On February 5, 1994, the National Association of Manufacturers passed a resolution declaring its opposition to the Clinton plan. Not long after that, Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who was managing the health care bill for the House, approached the senior Republican on the bill to seek a compromise. According to Dingell, the response was: “There’s no way you’re going to get a single vote on this [Republican] side of the aisle. You will not only not get a vote here, but we’ve been instructed that if we participate in that undertaking at all, those of us who do will lose our seniority and will not be ranking minority members within the Republican Party.” ...
By August, it was over. It didn’t matter that Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the Senate by 56 to 44 and in the House by 257 to 176. Health care was a lost cause. Republican Senator Bob Packwood boasted to his colleagues “We’ve killed health care reform.” ...
On November 8 voters repudiated President Clinton. They brought Republicans to power at ever level of government. Democrats went from a controlling majority 257 seats in the House of Representatives to a minority of 204, and lost the Senate.
I remember how shocked we were the morning after the votes were counted. I asked one of Clinton’s political advisors what had happened. “It was health care,” he said, simply. That advisor, by the way, is now in the Obama White House.

Today’s Republican battle plan is exactly the same as it was sixteen years ago. In fact, it’s been the same since President Obama assumed office. They never were serious about compromise. They were serious only about regaining power. From the start, Republicans have remembered the lesson of 1994. Now, as they prepare to vote, House Dems should remember as well.

In the end, all that matters is winning. How you go about it doesn't make much difference - people won't care or remember whether reconciliation was used or not. And even if they do remember, pushing the rules to the limit in order to win is expected, as is all the noise about how doing so is cheating in some way. Democrats should take off the rabbit ears and stop listening to all the nonsense about the need for centrism and inclusiveness. All people will remember whether or not Democrats were able to prevail.

    Posted by on Monday, March 15, 2010 at 01:50 PM in Economics, Health Care, Politics | Permalink  Comments (61)


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