The Big Question: What could Democrats gain or lose by tackling the healthcare bill alone?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

What do Democrats stand to gain or lose politically if they go it alone on healthcare?

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said:

Well obviously anytime you can have bipartisan support it's a very helpful thing, but I think more important than numbers from either party is whether or not the outcome will actually work; whether it will help bring the deficit down, or whether it will make healthcare more affordable to Americans. I think the nature of the vote, whether it's partisan or bipartisan, will largely be forgotten overtime. People will focus on whether the product actually made sense. The party that votes for it will get credit if it's a partisan vote, and if it doesn't make sense, then all the Republican support in the world won't protect from a produce that didn't work. I think most people are pretty practical about these things. We here and your publication tend to obsess about it, but the average American will only ask, 'Did it improve my insurance? Did it make it more affordable, and am I now able to get it?'

Michelle D. Bernard, president & CEO of the Independent Women's Forum, said:

President Obama ran as a centrist politician who would rise above petty politics and work with both parties to find solutions that work for America. Today, all the political back-and-forth that's occurred up to this point in time will be overshadowed by the outcome of the health care debate. This legislation will radically alter the way the American health care system works, affecting just about every American. Right now, many Americans are frustrated with the way that this debate has been conducted and believe that the legislation that will be passed will make things worse, not better.

The Independent Women's Forum will release findings from a poll of women this week that should serve as a wake-up call to political leaders. Political wisdom has been that women are natural supporters of more liberal policy prescriptions, and all believe government will do a better job running our health care system. But this just isn't the case.

All this means that there is great political danger in the Democrats proceeding to ram through such an ambitious bill without any buy-in from Republicans. It isn't just Republicans that they will alienate, but all of the Independents and moderates who believed in the idea that President Obama represented a new brand of politics.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said:

I'm going to do everything I can to try to make for a bipartisan bill, and I was just encouraged by Sen. Gregg's comments he made 15 or 20 minutes ago.

Tom McClusky, senior vice president of FRC Action, said:

The Democrats can claim full ownership of the mess they are trying to create. It would have been very easy for the Democratic leadership to make the legislation bipartisan - however the original bills were crafted behind closed doors with some of the most liberal Members of Congress at the beginning of this debate, and being recrafted in the same manner now. This maneuvering might have guaranteed them a bill that will satisfy their liberal base - but at the sacrifice of conservative members in their own party.

Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute, said:

Should the Democrats go it alone on healthcare as their majority in the House and Senate would permit, the party would "own" healthcare, thereby putting this issue on center stage for its political future. This is a major gamble since most polls indicate growing bipartisan dissatisfaction with healthcare proposals across the country. It would quickly become the litmus test employed by dissident Republicans who will argue, with some justification, that they were not consulted, not forewarned and needlessly ignored in committee discussions.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said:

I don't know. That's for other people to speculate. I don't look at things that way.

Glenn Reynolds, from Instapundit, said:

I believe the Democratic leadership has made the calculation that it is better to have something they can call a victory, however attained, than to face a defeat. In the short term this is probably correct. The press generally treats the passage of a bill as a triumph in and of itself, and the coverage on this issue is likely to be more than usually sympathetic.

On the other hand, there's no reason to think that the program will produce any tangible benefits for voters between now and 2012, and based on recent history -- Cash For Clunkers, anyone? -- it's very likely to be a mess once implementation starts. If so, it will be a mess that the Democrats own.

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

As the American people become increasingly more distrustful of government (a very good development!), the Democrats who are pushing hard to establish a more complete federal takeover of the health industry face large-scale repudiation in the 2010 and future elections. There is certainly a possibility of a repeat in 2010 of the 1994 victories by GOP candidates, even though that victory was deceitfully squandered by then-Speaker Gingrich and his essentially meaningless "Contract with America." The rising tide of displeasure over the many federal power grabs will affect the large body of independent, swing voters much more than Democratic and GOP bases.