Does anyone still have any doubts that Democrats' health care reform bill will pass? As the day of reckoning draws near, national headlines have shifted from, "Democrats Face Uphill Battle," to "House Dems on Track for Vote." At this point, it's clearer than ever before that passage of the bill is inevitable. When Obama announced his strategy, the only ones with doubts were the Democrats. Republicans knew they were done for right away. Running the gamut of weekend political TV programs, they were rapidly positioning themselves, not to obstruct, but simply to whine about the Democrats' political maneuvering. As the week went by, however, it began to dawn on them that it didn't really matter whether or not the bill passed. They needed to stay focused on the true end-game: scoring political points against their opponents.
My sense is that, in a way, it was actually a great relief to Republicans when the Democrats finally found an end-around to their obstructions. Republicans have been denouncing the bill from the onset, whether or not they had ever read its 1,000+ pages or knew anything more about it than the GOP talking points. There was always enough misinformation and ignorance on every side of the argument to support anyone who had an opinion on it. Denouncing the bill had proven an effective strategy for winning votes, and they were looking forward to getting more mileage out of it as elections drew near.
In recent weeks, however, Obama had been slowly turning public opinion his way again, making it harder for them to justify their unanimously partisan stance. Some within the Republican ranks were also weakening. Perhaps they had always liked the bill and their consciences were finally getting the better of them. Republicans needed a fall-back plan, and soon, before their wall of resistance started springing leaks, potentially handing Obama a resounding political victory.
Ways and Means
When the Democrats threatened to "deem the bill passed" without having to directly vote on it, Republican found a solution. They could now safely denounce, not the bill, but the Democrats' tactics, avoiding the pesky need to defend their partisan posturing against the bill.
Texas Rep. Ted Poe called it a "sneaky snake oil gimmick," despite the fact that Republicans themselves have used the same tactics in the past. It's "un-American," cried Rep. Cathy McMorris. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted that the Democrat-controlled Congress would go down in history "for the arrogant way it has dictated" what was best for the American people. He joined other Republicans in demanding "an up and down vote," although most of the year they had opposed up-and-down votes on the bill in the Senate.
A Wrinkle in Time
Republicans are okay now with the bill's passage, because they can now defend themselves against its potential success. They know that, over time, even if it should dramatically improve health care services for most Americans, such a complicated piece of legislation will inevitably have some flaws. Individual stories of those who did not benefit from it will surface. If that should be the case, Republicans can then point out that they had never opposed the bill per se (they were willing to vote on it, after all). They just knew it wasn't perfect, and they were trying to make sure it was better. If the bill turns out to be a nightmare for the American people, Republicans can safely say they knew it all along, and that's why they had so vigorously opposed it. Does all this really go through the minds of Republican strategists? When you've got nothing to do all day but lick your wounds and plot your return to power, it certainly does.
Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen said recently that Republicans "would prefer to talk about the process" rather than "the substance" of the bill. Obama basically said he doesn't care how it's passed or what Republicans say. He just wants it done. After a year of extending his hand in friendship and having Republicans chop it off, he has come to realized that, if he is ever to make an omelet, he will have to break a few eggs.
Republicans, however, are masters at wiping those eggs from their faces and making themselves an omelet -- and really enjoying the meal.