Sunday, December 20, 2009

Very Bad News

Not unexpectedly, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Ne.), the 60th and last vote needed by the Democratic Senate leadership to move ahead with its version of the Universal Health Care bill, was literally bought off by language that ensured any additional Medicaid costs for the state of Nebraska ONLY would be paid federally and special treatment for physician owned hospitals in Nebraska ONLY. For that Senator Nelson gave up the moral concerns he had regarding abortion.

The fight isn't over but it is going into the later rounds now and Democrats are up on all the judges' cards. The Senate actually has to vote and if they get cloture early in January a conference committee with have to hammer out a compromise bill that will need to pass both houses again, functionally, cloture again in the Senate and then it's done.

Mark Steyn makes the key point -- it is a surpassing strategic triumph for the Democrats if they can pass ANY sweeping bill even if its watered down. This legislation will force the Republic down a road from which it will not be able to come back:

As I wrote back in the summer, "Put not your trust in Blue Dog Democrats." It was folly to bet the Republic on the likes of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln and other "moderates" who are, by definition, trimmers and accommodationists.

By contrast, Barney Frank and the more ambitious Dems are thinking long-term. And, if it's a choice between getting government health care or keeping Ben Nelson, it's no contest. Not to keep quoting myself ad nauseam, but as I said to Hugh Hewitt a couple of months back:

I think the administration is willing to take the hit. In other words, to get health care, they would be willing to reduce their majority, and perhaps even lose their majority in the House and the Senate, because they know it’s a game changer. [emphasis mine] Now to sell that to individual Senators and Congressmen, you’ve got to have something up your sleeve for them... There are strange elements in play here. But they’ve factored into the whole business a potential, I think, a potential significant loss in the year 2010, in next year’s elections.

I've been saying for a year now, in NR and NRO, that the object for savvy Dems is to get this thing passed in whatever form because, once you do, there's no going back. Kim Strassel in yesterday's Journal gets it:

So why the stubborn insistence on passing health reform? Think big. The liberal wing of the party—the Barney Franks, the David Obeys—are focused beyond November 2010, to the long-term political prize. They want a health-care program that inevitably leads to a value-added tax and a permanent welfare state. Big government then becomes fact, and another Ronald Reagan becomes impossible. See Continental Europe. [emphasis mine]

Just so. And that's worth whatever hit they have to take in 2010. Every time I make the point, someone says, oh, Jim Webb this or Byron Dorgan that, or have you see Harry Reid's numbers in Nevada? Oh, please. We've just seen what happens when you make Ben Nelson your Maginot Line. The Dems are thinking strategically; the Republicans are all tactics.

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