The Big Question: Will healthcare provide a political boost?

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

Today's question:

Will Monday's Senate vote on healthcare reform provide a political boost for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrats?



Aaron Keyak, Communications Director for the National Jewish Democratic Council, said:

Absolutely, this bill is historic and may prove to be one of the most important legislative accomplishments of our lifetime.

Let's not lose sight though that the biggest winners of last night's vote will be millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans. GOP Senate leaders claim that they too want health care reform but their behavior during this debate indicates otherwise. Last night's vote wasn't about partisan gains, it was about breaking the decades-long log-jam over true reform to this nation's health insurance system.

As we know, Democrats are historically less ideologically disciplined than Republicans when it comes to whipping votes in Congress, so this is a huge victory for Senator Harry Reid. Keeping all 60 members of his caucus together in a political environment in which a super majority is required to pass nearly any legislation is a significant accomplishment.

The strategy and methods used in this debate clearly show that in the long run we are going to have to address this historic abuse of the filibuster if we are to remain a great nation.


Peter Fenn, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

No question a serious boost.  Slam dunk.  Which party championed Social Security?...the Democrats; who pushed to establish Medicare?...the Democrats; who will be responsible for real change in our health care system  --  again, the Democrats.  Who delivers, despite Republicans' political intransigence, the Democrats.  The message in November:  the Democrats get things done.


Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit blogger, said:

Whenever any bill passes, the press tends to treat it as a success, and that burst of favorable treatment will probably produce a short-term bounce.  When Americans figure out what's in the bill, on the other hand, that bounce is likely to evaporate and more. Certainly Byron Dorgan, now 22 points behind for reelection because of ObamaCare must be hoping for a much bigger bounce than is likely to materialize.


Anthony Sisneros, professor of Public Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield, said:

In the short term, yes. In the long term, it depends on how Hispanics feel about health care expansion. Hispanic electoral power will broker future elites, so much so that their ideological perspectives may blend into a one-party American system. Hispanic intense work ethic (native, naturalized, undocumented) and political geography insure paying down ugly debt, including the guarantee of tax transfers into an American savings account--what a deal. Why bite the hand that feeds us?


Hal Lewis, professor at UC Santa Barbara, said:

I don't think so. It is a disastrous bill, doomed to failure, and with Obama's popularity sinking fast it is out of step with the American public. The same is true of the climate bill, whose threat to the economy is beginning to sink in. And the strong-arm policies of buying votes one by one until you have a tiny margin is the stuff of which dictatorships are made. That's big-city politics, and just plain tastes bad. A bad taste doesn't translate into a political boost.


Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said:

You ask two separate questions. Whether you are for or against the health care bill, you have to give Harry Reid considerable credit. In a Senate of prima donnas, where every man is a king and every woman a queen, Reid managed to hold all 60 Democrats together for one of the most complicated and controversial pieces of legislation in American history. Reid can use this in his tough reelection fight next November. It’s not that Nevadans will necessarily like the health care bill. But this is a cannot-be-missed signal of Reid’s influence in the Senate. Small states hesitate to oust their bring-home-the-bacon legislators (though they will do it on occasion. See: Daschle, Tom).

The Democrats as a whole have a more mixed bag here. The passage of health care reform will keep many Democratic activists engaged in the 2010 midterms, and mitigate somewhat the “enthusiasm gap” with Republicans. But my sense of the polls and the landscape is that the GOP has a clear advantage next November. Republicans and conservatives are frustrated and angry about health care, taxes, spending, and debt, and they are likely to show up in large numbers, just as they did in November 2009. This doesn’t mean a GOP takeover of Congress, just solid gains — at least from the perspective of a year out.

 

Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

I believe it will bring a disaster for the Democrats in the near future, possibly a Last Hurrah. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has the Tea Party movement with a higher approval rating than both Democrats and Republicans. This will raise the fortunes of that movement and its most prominent supporters, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Sarah Palin in particular, at cost to Democrats. It is possible now to see a new party — a Conservative Party like that which came in second in the recent NY-23 race — rising against this background. This is leisure-class entitlement, plain and simple.


Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:

Not by itself. That won't happen until we get final passage of a bill and it is signed into law by President Obama. I expect that we will see Democrats rally behind the bill after it becomes law, but not Republicans. The partisan divisions over health care reform will remain for some time, at least until the benefits of the new law begin to kick in and GOP predictions of doom are again proven wrong just as they were with Social Security, Medicare, etc.


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

Will the government takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy — the healthcare industry —be a boost for Harry Reid? We can certainly hope it won't. What the Senate seems ready to accomplish will add enormously to our nation's already horrendous indebtedness. It will result in less available healthcare as has occurred in every nation where government has assumed control. And it is, as with so much else being undertaken by the U.S. government, totally unconstitutional. There is no authorization for the federal government to have anything to say about healthcare. As our nation plunges more deeply into socialism and totalitarian rule, the future for today's children grows dimmer.  A huge wake-up is needed.  If Harry Reid is driven out of office, it will signal that the much needed wake-up is gathering steam.


Bruce E. Gronbeck, professor of Public Address at the University of Iowa, said:

There certainly will not be a political boost immediately for the Democrats, given where public opinion is. I suspect underlying the negatives in polling is an issue that seldom is raised: A significant segment of the population does not want to pay for the health care of those without insurance coverage. Many Americans with health insurance likely figure they're paying enough for themselves, so why should they be responsible for the 35-45 million without coverage? Let the medical and hospital communities pick them up. If that attitude is nesting in a significant portion of the country's population, then the Democrats will get no bounce from the passage of health care legislation — at least not until that attitude fades. And that could take some time.


John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

This is a big political boost .. .for the GOP. For centrist democrats, it is a disaster; for liberals, it is a big disappointment; for independents, it is another big government boondoggle and for good government types, it is a further example of a broken process. This bill will swiftly raise taxes on the young and the old, and it will cut medicare for those who live in underserved areas (chiefly rural America). The only folks who win are those who vote no.


Peter Edelman, professor of Law at Georgetown University, said:

Yes, but ... This should have been a no-brainer on the politics, but the Republicans and the corporate interest groups and, I am sorry to say, to some extent the liberals have made it more of a dilemma than it should be. The Democrats will lose big if they go the electorate without a bill — that’s the clear lesson from the Clinton health debacle. But the months of incessant attacks from the right have soured much of the public on the whole enterprise, so there is now some risk of a backlash against the Democrats for passing a bill. This could and should (although the “should” is a harder call) have been a better bill (both House and Senate versions), but we’re past that phase now. The bill has lots of problems but it moves us in the right direction and gives us something to build on. The history of health care reform is a little like what Abba Eban said about the Palestinians in the peace process: they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. For decades the perfect has been the enemy of the good here. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we can now see that the liberals have never failed to miss an opportunity because they have always thought they could wait and get a better deal. The responsibility when the dust settles now is for those who want to be constructive to join in helping to tell the American people that this is a historic achievement. Flawed, yes. Needing further work to build on the foundation created here, yes.  But a major achievement nonetheless. If the Democrats can finish the job here, it is a big step for America, and the Democrats will deserve the thanks of everyone. Will they get it? That’s not as clear as it should be.


Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:


In the short term, it's a Pyrrhic victory for the Dems. In the long term, it's much worse:

This is the third big bailout: first it was the banks, then the auto industry, and now the insurance companies -- who have been handed a huge pool of new and captive customers. What a Christmas gift! Of course, no one will be able to bail out the next generation of Americans, who will be left saddled with a world-historic debt and a much lower standard of living.

I can't wait until people discover they HAVE to buy health insurance or face fines. Try explaining to a healthy 21-year-old why he or she has to put out a good chunk of change on the off chance they are sick. That should be interesting. And when costs go up anyway, who will the Democrats blame-- George W. Bush?


Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, said:

 Health care has been in the news for the past few months….. Harry Reid has been spending money advertising how powerful he is inWashington—and polls double digits behind several Republicans.

Dorgan of North Dakota now polls 22 points behind the Republican Governor.

Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln polls behind her Republican challengers.

Delaware, Illinois both have Republicans running ahead of what were supposed to be unchallengable Democrats.

Asked if folks plan to vote R or D for congress they say R by seven point margins.

Obama, once with unprecedented high approval ratings now has unprecedented low ones.

Obama is a community organizer….of middle America.  Against the left’s power grab. The gallows humor on capitol hill was that when Obama told them to vote with him on the Left agenda on taxing health care he was really preparing them to “be history.”

Is this working? Depends which team you are rooting for.


Craig Newmark, creator of Craigslist and a Pundits Blog contributor, said:

Looks like most folks throughout the U.S. see that the Democrats are standing up to a few Republican bullies, and it's getting results for the country.

John M. Snyder, Public Affairs Director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said:

With regard to Sen. Reid, his manager's amendment to the bill includes a provision that supposedly would prevent administrators of the bill from infringing gun rights of law-abiding Americans by using firearms possession in determination of health care consideration.  This obviously is in reaction to complaints that the proposed law could be used by administrators to use gun ownership as a factor in such consideration and enable anti-gun administrators to compromise benefits on the basis of such ownership.  While this somewhat may mitigate concerns, and while Sen. Reid may feel that this protects him from gun owner opposition in Nevada, and other Democrat Senate incumbents in some other states, it does not relieve him of the complaint that he has ushered through the Senate and other Senators that they have voted for the confirmation of the nominations of such anti-gun appointees as Eric Holder as Attorney General, Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Cass Sunstein as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 

A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, said:

President Obama and the Democrats have decided to push forward with passing health care reform even though they know the numbers are against them -- polls show the public deeply skeptical and anxious about what reform would mean to the quality and cost of their care and how the bill gets paid for.
 
The calculation Democrats are making is that governing is better than the failure to govern, that they can somehow sell a reform package more easily than explain away an inability to pass something they promised so many times. They literally believe they know better than the public about what is in the long term best interests of the country and that passing reform now, even if it must be improved later on, is the right thing to do even if it isn't popular.
 
Republicans will have an easy time painting reform as a tax increase and growth in government at a time we can least afford it. And from here it looks as if health care is just one more nail in the coffin for Democrats in the midterm elections next fall. But Democrats have prepared a new campaign, to frame health care reform as a deficit cutter: the Congressional Budget Office assessed the latest Senate bill as saving more than $130 billion over ten years and then $1 trillion in the following decade. We all know the cuts such savings will require -- those ones pushed onto future Congresses -- will never be made, so can those savings materialize?
 
But if unemployment eases up and Americans feel better about the economy, the Democrats just might be able to sell health care reform as a component of economic security. It would take many things going right, which hasn't happened lately, but it isn't impossible. And for Democrats, its the only plan they've got.


Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, said:

Since polls suggest the large majority of Americans are opposed to the healthcare reform coming out of the Senate, it is hard to see how this will be a boost for Senator Reid and the Democrats. Once it is clear that Medicare will be cut by $455 billion, the elderly will certainly recoil at the reforms. Once people in their twenties realize that if they choose not to have health insurance they will face a fine, resistance will be in the offing. And once most Americans understand that a government bureaucrat will determine the nature of treatment for those who need care, a political tsunami against Reid and the Democrats is likely.
 
If anything, I would guess that Reid's actions will result in his being a Nevada resident after November with no ties to DC. And the Democratic party will rue the day it foisted an unwanted health bill on the American people.