Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.
Will there be a backlash from voters if Democrats pass healthcare reform through reconciliation?
Damon N. Spiegel, entrepreneur and writer, said:
Unfortunately, most people in this country have no idea what it means to pass a bill through reconciliation. For those that do, the backlash will only exist for those that are opposed to healthcare. However, come election time the Republicans will turn the process of reconciliation into a process of back room shady deals between the democrats that sneaked in one of the most major reforms our country has even seen. They’ll call it un-American, unpatriotic, unconstitutional, nontransparent and more. The voters won’t know the difference they’ll only know that the rules were side stepped without their involvement. To answer the question more poignantly, backlash is an understatement of what will occur.
John Feehery, Pundits Blog Contributor, said:
Big time. The american people have already voted rhetorically against this bill in overwhelming fashion. Should the democrats insist on jamming this bill down their throats, the voters will show their displeasure by voting the dems right out of power in november.
Bruce E. Gronbeck, professor of Political Communication at the University of Iowa, said:
There'll undoubtedly be a lot of screaming, but the Democrats will respond that roughly 80% of proposed legislation in this Senate has been stopped through threat of filibuster. With the thrust of the sword comes the parry. The key, of course, will be this: does the Democratic leadership believe that it can keep a viable majority assembled through the spring and into the summer campaign? The great advantage of reconciliation will be that it will allow health care to be passed piece by piece, starting with the easier pieces.
Hal Lewis, professor at UC Santa Barbara, said:
Yes, but whether it will matter in November is anyone's guess. Americans nowadays have short attention spans, and some of the more egregious features of the bill are deliberately designed to become effective on someone else's watch.
Terence Kane, Pundits blog contributor, said:
Majority Leader Harry Reid has signaled the way forward on health reform is through the reconciliation process. Republicans are predicting a backlash to this tactic, however if they pay attention to the success of their own arguments they might be disappointed by the forthcoming response from voters. Assuming Republican arguments are correct that the American public revolted at the plodding and confusing process of health reform it seems unlikely they will object to the new developments because they take exception to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. If the public suddenly finds its inner parliamentarian and disapproves of Democrats use budget reconciliation, it will go up against both the frequent past history of reconciliation and health reform and the Republican use of reconciliation.
Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, said:
Not a chance. Check the history and you will question Orrin Hatch's statement that using reconciliation to advance healthcare is "unprecedented." And here is Sen Jon Kyl: "Reconciliation was never designed for a large comprehensive piece of legislation such as health care ... it's a budget exercise."
What? Where have the Republicans been these past 30 years? Go back to Ronald Reagan and the reconciliation packages that: 1) Opened Medicare to HMOs (1982), 2) Established COBRA (1986), 3) Provided nursing home protection (1987). Not to mention major healthcare legislation that added cancer screenings to Medicare, provided for living wills, expanded Medicaid to kids below the poverty line, provided vaccine funding for all children and allowed parents of disabled children to buy into Medicaid. And, more recently, a budget reconciliation in 1997 created the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP.
To quote Sara Rosenbaum, chairwoman of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University: "In fact, the way in which virtually all of health reform, with very, very limited exceptions, has happened over the past 30 years has been the reconciliation process."
Excuse me — reconciliation not being used for major healthcare legislation? At least the Republican opponents should get their basic facts straight and be straight with the American people.
Frank Askin, professor of law at Rutgers University, said:
I think the public will judge the law, not the procedure by which it was adopted. As long as the public embraces healthcare legislation, it will not care (and really won't understand) about the process which adopted it.
Michelle D. Bernard, president and CEO of the Independent Women's Forum, said:
HEALTHCARE REFORM THROUGH RECONCILATION NOW WILL BE RECONCILED BY WOMEN AND INDEPENDENTS IN NOVEMBER
Absolutely. Poll after poll shows voters reject the Democrats healthcare proposals. The latest Rasmussen poll confirmed those findings once again: “41% of voters favor the proposed healthcare plan, while 56% oppose it. Those figures include 45% who strongly oppose the plan and just 23% who strongly favor it.” Yes, nearly half of the country “strongly” opposes the healthcare legislation that the Democrats are now seeking to advance using reconciliation — a procedure that was meant for use only for budget matters, not for legislation that would fundamentally reorder one-sixth of the economy. This surely will infuriate not only those ideologically opposed to this healthcare reform proposal, but political independents who want a more civil, bipartisan Washington.
A poll conducted by Independent Women's Voice after the Massachusetts special election found that twice as many Massachusetts voters thought Congress should “start over” in healthcare negotiations as thought that Congress should “keep going as is.” Undoubtedly, these voters, like most Americans, will be even more disgusted by those who would seek to advance this most unpopular legislation by thwarting the regular legislative process, and they'll be ready to show their anger in the voting booths in November.
Peter Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at U.C. Irvine, said:
More like a thousand lashes of the electoral whip. Go ahead: “Make the Republicans day.”
John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:
A healthy backlash already exists over the Democrat attempt to federalize healthcare. If the leftists in the Democratic Party continue to push their dangerous plan, they will create even more of a backlash.
The obvious but generally unappreciated strategy in play here can be summed up as, "Get something on the books; we'll fix it later." This devious plan has been used many times in the past, perhaps the most harmful being its employment in 1913 at the creation of the Federal Reserve. All further inroads into medicine by the federal government should be emphatically opposed. Then, the inroads already accomplished should be repealed.
If one looks at the truly dismal results of federal involvement in education, housing, energy and more, one would have to be daft or totally committed to unAmerican socialism to want federal presence in the medical field.
David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said:
No. This is totally inside baseball. The 2001 tax cut was pushed through on a reconciliation bill which added $1.6 trillion to the budget deficit over the past decade alone. There was no voter backlash. Those who get stirred up about this procedural issue are already stirred up over the substance of the legislation. Backroom deals and special provisions for individual members are much more of a problem and should be stripped from any final legislation. Democrats will feel a voter backlash from their own base if they do not use the power of a strong majority in both houses of Congress to fulfill a decades-old priority.
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:
No one knows or cares about whether the Democrats use the reconciliation process to pass healthcare. If people understood that the Republicans are using parliamentary games to obstruct everything in sight, they would have been chased out of town long ago.
No one will care that the Democrats subverted their games. The public will care about the merits of the bill. In Massachusetts at least, they seem to like it.
Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, said:
I doubt voters will be angry at the process in itself, as the current workings of the Senate are generally indefensible unless you oppose what the majority seeks to pass. That qualifier speaks to today's question: those who oppose the healthcare bill will be angry about the reconciliation, and those who support the bill won't care. Few others will be swayed by the use of reconciliation — it's hardly a novel tactic, and still requires a majority of senators to support the bill.
Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:
No — Voters will respond based on their support or opposition to healthcare reform, which in turn divides voters mainly along party lines. Democrats will overwhelmingly approve, Republicans will overwhelmingly disapprove.
Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:
Yes, the American people oppose a bill that would force them to buy health insurance — or, for that matter, a bill that would force them to buy anything. Period. It doesn't matter how they pass it.
Furthermore, people are tired of even hearing about this. Almost as bad as offending the voters is boring them. Democrats — don't go there. You'll be sorry ...
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org, said:
People out here just want reliable healthcare, and need Congress to do what it takes. "Reconciliation," for most, is a Beltway abstraction.