The debate rages on as to whose fault it is that we find ourselves in the situation that Joe Lieberman can decide to cut whatever he likes out of th
December 16, 2009

The debate rages on as to whose fault it is that we find ourselves in the situation that Joe Lieberman can decide to cut whatever he likes out of the health-care reform bill and tongue kiss Dana Bash while doing it. Was the Obama administration so naive that they didn't think they needed to cut a deal with Lieberman on health care as soon as he won the election? Joe actually supported John McCain to the bitter end and bloggers made the argument that Joe should go from the beginning of his term, but the leadership decided to keep him on board.

Yes, the health-care fight was never going to be easy so why didn't David Axelrod secure Joe's vote on health-care before it got off the ground? It boggles the mind. We all know what prima donnas conservative Democrats are in the Senate. It's quite clear that Lieberman is only interested in punishing liberals and not helping Americans. They knew who he was. He wasn't f*&king hiding. He was stumping for McCain!

Howie Klein, Digby and I all thought that the Senate was ultimately going to call the shots at the end. I always figured the House would pass a fairly progressive bill, but it was the ConservaDems in the House of Lords who would be the problem. So that's why Blue America targeted Blanche Lincoln. She was the only senator up for re-election and had to face the voters in 2010.

Matt Yglesias makes a good case as to why this mess isn't really Obama's fault, but I don't agree with all of it.

I think there’s something perverse in the very strong desire I see among liberals to make problems in congress be about anything other than congress. It’s just not in the power of Barack Obama to make the senate anything other than what it is. To pass a bill, you need sixty votes. To get sixty votes you need Ben Nelson or Olympia Snowe to back your bill. Neither Nelson nor Snowe is especially liberal, and the President doesn’t have a great deal of leverage over either of them. You can try to change the rules, or you can accept that you’re at the mercy of Nelson and Snowe and maybe a few other moderate members.

And it’s crucial to remember that these people—each and every member of congress—is an adult human being, capable of making up his or her own mind, responsible for his or her own decisions, and possessed of moral agency. These are men and women who have amassed a great deal of power, and who ultimately need to decide on a daily basis what it is they want to do with that power. If they choose to use it for bad ends, then blame them for that, not Obama or his team’s alleged lack of familiarity with the United States Senate.

I really like Matt's writing. First, I never thought Tom Daschle was the guy for the job because he whipped the Dems to vote for the war in 2002, but maybe I'm wrong there. Obama is still the president and he won a mandate with health-care reform on the table. I think part of the problem is their inexperience in real-world governance and especially in handling a piece of legislation this massive and this momentous.

I believe that President Obama does want to pass good health-care reform, but you can't use the same tactics that were used for running a general election campaign and apply them to legislation. Not with the Senate vacant of any decent Republican human beings. The president is a wonderful speaker and a great communicator, but there was no way he could swoop in at the end and save the day like he was able to do in the general election. Policy does not work like that as we've just seen.

Digby writes:

I'm not sure how that will all work out in the end. But I'm fairly confident that the deficit scolds are getting ready to launch a full scale offensive on government spending, so "improving the bill" in any financial way is probably not going to be on the agenda any time soon, certainly not with a looming election and tanking poll numbers. And with the president's approval rating suffering not simply due to health care reform, but because of unemployment and economic torpor, what we get in this health care reform bill had better be enough to last us for quite a while.

Since the media loves Lieberman and everything he stands for, no matter what bill is passed he'll suddenly be the face of it and the Villagers will rejoice.

And Duncan adds:

I feel like those more supportive of this bill are attacking anti-mandate strawmen. The reason for thinking that without a public option or similar mandates are going to be a disaster is that without competition or sufficient affordability (due to not quite generous enough subsidies), you're forcing people to buy shitty insurance that they can't afford. Mandates aren't bad in and of themselves, but they're bad if they aren't part of a comprehensive plan which is... good!


Now, the reforms moving through Congress won't produce a system as comprehensive as what the Netherlands or Switzerland has. But that's not because of the individual mandate, which actually makes a lot of sense. (Read here if you want chapter and verse on that.) That's because the subsidies and regulation in these bills aren't as generous and strong as they could be.

In other words, you're forcing people to buy shitty insurance that they can't afford. Why would anyone possibly object to that?

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