By Cheri Jacobus - 03/18/10 09:33 PM EDT
A tactic known as the “self-executing rule” or “deem and pass” is in Pelosi’s sights and has never been used for anything as huge, complicated and impactful as a trillion-dollar healthcare bill. The Speaker and her cohorts are considering a parliamentary trick that would pass the bill without any member of the House of Representatives actually having to vote on it.
No one actually has to touch it. No one actually has to claim responsibility. Plausible deniability is built right in — courtesy of Speaker Pelosi.
However, it is politically naïve to operate under the assumption that people will refrain from holding Democrats accountable.
The slimy package of reconciliation and “deem and pass,” along with those much-maligned (and rightly so) closed-door backroom maneuverings by Democrats shutting out Republicans will prove to be a toxic cocktail for Democrats come November. Senate Democrats’ insistence that Pelosi’s parliamentary sleaze had nothing to do with them will, and should, fall on deaf ears with the electorate.
The only explanation for the lunacy of the Democrats’ strategy that they have lost Republicans, independents and many, many moderate, centrist Democrats all across the country. At this point, they needed to scramble to preserve the only viable group of supporters available — their far-left base. That’s why liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) finally coughing up his support for a bill he considers not liberal enough is so important to President Barack Obama, and why he took time out of his presidential schedule to travel to Ohio to show Kucinich some presidential love. It worked. Kucinich swooned and flipped.
If Obama loses healthcare, he loses on all fronts in 2012. But if he wins healthcare, he still loses everywhere — except the Kucinich/MoveOn.org wing of the Democratic Party. By ramming ObamaCare through Congress come hell or high water, Obama has at least preserved his farm-team activist support on the far left. He probably will even prevent a primary challenge from the left, as well, which is no accidental, insignificant part of his strategy.
Obama is sending many of his Democratic lambs to slaughter by twisting their arms on healthcare. Senate Democrats, too, will pay a price for Pelosi’s smarmy “deem and pass” scheme in the House, as voters are highly unlikely to distinguish between the two chambers and let senators off the hook. But the President is quite comfortable and willing to force congressional Democrats to make that sacrifice on his behalf, boosting his own dwindling political fortunes. (The new Gallup poll shows his disapprovals higher than his approval numbers, similar to recent Rasmussen polls.)
Democrats may lose, but the left will be happy with ObamaCare and therefore with Obama. If the left were unhappy, there would be a serious primary challenge, possibly by a defeated House or Senate Democrat. It would not be surprising, nor unexpected, if many of those possible soon-to-be losers are being told quietly — so very, very quietly — that should they lose their bid for reelection due to their support for ObamaCare or, more devastating, for the skeevy parliamentary maneuverings to pass ObamaCare, there is a nice Cabinet position that will be made available just for them, or maybe a cushy ambassadorship to somewhere sunny and exotic. Perhaps even a vice presidency will be offered in the event Vice President Joe Biden decides (or is told) to exit the scene to “spend more time with his family.”
Obama may be buoyed by the notion that while his former colleagues in Congress will suffer at the ballot box this November, he has plenty of time to turn the public’s unhappiness with him and ObamaCare around by the time he is up for reelection in 2012. But if ObamaCare is signed into law, a court battle may ensue with the constitutionality of the methods of passage coming under fire. ObamaCare and the tactics used to make it law will be in the spotlight and on voters’ minds as they cast their vote for president — not exactly welcome news for Obama.
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.