By Dick Morris - 03/16/10 11:14 PM EDT
The Senate Republicans need to make it crystal-clear that they will not vote for any reconciliation amendments to Obama’s healthcare bill.
Not for any they disagree with. Not for any they agree with. Not for abortion restrictions. Not for repeal of special breaks for Nebraska, Florida or Louisiana. Not for a fix on the tax on high-end health policies. Not for any reconciliation changes. None.
Can the Senate Democrats muster 51 votes for a pro-life amendment? Not on your life! Can they find 51 votes to repeal the benefits promised to a bunch of their popular incumbents from other states? Not if those getting the benefits vote together!
The House Democrats are laboring under the illusion that they can get the Senate to fix its healthcare bill. But it’s a total fiction. Whether in one bill or in two, the Senate simply won’t vote for these changes as long as the Republicans don’t pass them for them.
So the House Democrats will be stuck with the Senate bill whether they like it or not. Imagine the consequences for them politically.
Imagine, for example, that you are Rep. Jason Altmire, Democrat from Pennsylvania. You voted against healthcare on the first pass, but now it seems you face weak opponents in November, so you are under great pressure from Queen Nancy to vote yes. She begs and pleads that she has to save the allocated “no” votes for the likes of your neighbor Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, who is more vulnerable to defeat. You cave in and vote yes.
Then an independent expenditure group comes into your district and begins to pile on with negative ads, like this:
|Florida beaches||In Florida, seniors can keep their Medicare Advantage|
|Pittsburgh skyline||But in Pennsylvania, we can’t|
|Nebraska football shot||In Nebraska, they don’t have to pay more for Medicaid’s expansion|
|Western Penn. scene||But in Pennsylvania, we do|
|French Quarter scene||In Louisiana, Obama’s healthcare bill provided tax breaks|
|Map of Pennsylvania||But not for us in Pennsylvania|
|Montage of Fla., Neb. and La.||How did these folks get these goodies?|
|Picture of Altmire||Our congressman, Jason Altmire, voted for them. Jason Altmire, the best congressman Florida, Louisiana and Nebraska ever had. But elected by us in Pennsylvania.|
Try your hand at answering them. The fact is that the Obama-Care legislation will hurt Democrats if it fails but will destroy the party if it passes. With the taxes effective immediately but the benefits postponed for four years, the bill’s impact will be purely negative in its opening years.
And beyond the precise terms of the bill lies the impression its passage will leave on the American people. As Gen. Colin Powell said of invading Iraq: “If you break it, you own it.”
If ObamaCare passes, every patient who has to wait to see a doctor, everyone whose premium goes up, every sick person who can’t get the needed medication — all will blame the health reforms. If the vote for healthcare doesn’t kill the moderate first- and second-term Democrats, then the shenanigans they will go through to pass it will. If the shenanigans don’t get them, the application of the bill will. If the application doesn’t get them, the bad events in each patient’s healthcare will be, perhaps unfairly, attributed to them. And if none of these kill them, the negative ads that stem from the bill will.
So if moderate Democrats want to support this bill, I say to them, with my 40 years of experience at winning elections: Sayonara.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage and Fleeced. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by e-mail or to order a signed copy of their new best-selling book, Catastrophe, go to dickmorris.com. In August, Morris became a strategist for the League of American Voters, which is running ads opposing the president’s healthcare reforms.