Watching Jonathan Gruber testify before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on Tuesday was likely too much for most Democrats to take, as he characterized his remarks describing Congress as tricking Americans into approving a new tax as “thoughtless,” as well as “mean,” “glib,” “uncalled for” and “embarrassing.”
It’s the very definition of the door hitting them on the way out. Four years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed by only Democrats, the law has contributed to giving Republicans their strongest hold on Congress in more than a century and a half.
The cumulative damage the Democratic Party has suffered, as well as the casualty rate — half of the 60 senators who supported the bill are since deceased, defeated or retired — has brought its leaders to an unhappy inflection and reflection point. Two years ago, President Obama was reelected to the surprise and delight of Democrats who believed that, not only would his unique coalition provide them with dominance in presidential cycles for the foreseeable future, but that perhaps the ACA backlash had passed. After losing their Senate majority and watching the GOP cement gains across federal offices, statehouses and regions Democrats might have lost for generations, however, buyer’s remorse on healthcare reform has led to angry division inside the party.
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidRepublican failure Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Top GOP senator: 'Tragic mistake' if Democrats try to block Gorsuch MORE (D-Nev.) now blames the debacle of the healthcare rollout for the GOP winning a 10-seat majority over Democrats last month. Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerManchin ‘very close’ on Gorsuch decision Poll: Most want Senate Dems to allow Gorsuch vote Senate seen as starting point for Trump’s infrastructure plan MORE (D-N.Y.) came out in the days following the ghastly midterm election losses to declare Democrats hadn’t listened to the voters when they passed reform in 2010. “Americans were crying out for the end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs — not for changes in their healthcare,” Schumer said in a speech blasted by several high-profile Democrats.
Schumer’s catharsis was followed by comments from retiring Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa.), also instrumental in drafting the bill, who lamented how “complicated” it was and said a single-payer system would have been better.
This dread was anticipated by some before the bill was even passed. Back in August of 2009, as the economy continued to suffer despite the promises of “recovery and reinvestment” of the $831 billion stimulus, both Vice President Biden and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel counseled against passing a large, comprehensive bill and advocated a more incremental approach because they worried the ambitious task was, as The New Republic described, “sucking the political life out of the presidency.”
But the dissenting view was rejected, the ACA passed, and it remains politically toxic nearly five years later.
Now Democrats hope a better website, more enrollees, some bipartisan fixes and a second affirmative Supreme Court decision can save the law before Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonPodesta demands Daily Caller correct article on financial disclosures Dems on offense in gubernatorial races Wasserman Schultz to Sanders: Dems are already a grassroots party MORE or another Democratic nominee has to finesse a position on it two years from now. If not, these four years are just the first in what could be decades before the Democratic Party is cured of its healthcare ills.
Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.