ACA 2009: Obama Nixes Public Option for GOP Buy in; Gets no GOP Buy in
I’m sorry-I love President Obama as anyone who has read me since 2011 knows-I had an older blog at Blogger before joining WordPress last September.
But his illusions of post partisan America have done a lot of mischief. What’s so hard to figure out is how his post partisan illusions survived eight years of Mitch McConnell’s obstruction.
As they clearly did was Obama was unwilling to inform the public of Russian interference because he couldn’t get bipartisan buy in from McConnell. How did Obama’s illusions survive eight years?
Here was Mitch McConnell 2009:
“Jeff Merkley had known Congress when it functioned. He had been a Senate intern in the 1970s and worked as a congressional aide and a staffer for the Congressional Budget Office in the 1980s, which had left him with a “love for institution, a respect for it.” “I knew that senators may have carried different party labels, but they generally liked each other and generally wanted to work together. They realized that for twenty percent [of the issues], that’s what campaigns were about, but they could get a lot done addressing the other issues. What was particularly different was that there wasn’t an effort to just immobilize the Senate.”
“Now, in early 2009, as a newly elected Democratic senator from Oregon, Merkley often had the rookie’s inglorious task of serving as the presiding officer who must watch over the chamber for hours on end while senators hold forth to a chamber empty but for tourists and pages refilling water glasses. And for much of that time in 2009, it seemed, the person whom Merkley found himself listening to was Mitch McConnell. Day after day, “he would just reel off the most partisan talking points possible, with no indication of advocacy or working together to solve the most pressing problems of the country,” Merkley said. Listening to McConnell, he says, “crystallized” what had gone wrong in the Senate since he’d been there as a young man. “It’s just a tremendous problem for America to have a perpetual partisan campaign, the inability to say, ‘The elections are over, let’s work together to solve some of these big issues.’
“That was not the path McConnell had chosen. In the midwinter of 2009, as Barack Obama assumed the presidency and the country was losing six hundred thousand jobs per month, McConnell assembled his caucus for a retreat in West Virginia and laid out a strategy that focused a whole lot more on undermining the former than addressing the latter. As Bennett recalls, “Mitch said, ‘We have a new president with an approval rating in the seventy percent area. We do not take him on frontally. We find issues where we can win, and we begin to take him down, one issue at a time. We create an inventory of losses, so it’s Obama lost on this, Obama lost on that. And we wait for the time where the image has been damaged to the point where we can take him on. We recognize the American people—even those who do not approve of him—want him to have success, are hopeful.’ ” In other words: wait out Americans’ hopefulness in a dire moment for the country until it curdles to disillusionment.”
“This strategy meant discouraging the sort of cross-partisan goodwill that Obama had held out as one of the central promises of his presidency, and that seemed within reach amid the celebratory feelings around his historic inauguration. So when New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg, who had served as a sort of untitled consigliere to McConnell, informed him that he was considering Obama’s invitation to become his secretary of commerce, McConnell did not congratulate him. “I went and told him and he understood I was going to do it, but he clearly thought it was a bad idea,” Gregg says. “It was obvious from his body language that he thought it was a bad idea.” Shortly afterward, Gregg withdrew his nomination, citing “irresolvable conflicts” with Obama.”
Long story short-it worked. Indeed, looking back on the obstruction of the Obama years, many Bernie Bros like Ryan Cooper blame not McConnell but Obama.
2009: The year the Democratic Party died
Many on the Left did come out of that not despising Mitch McConnell but Barrack Obama.
Which brings us to the latest in the war between Obama and McConnell today-the epic battle over Obamacare.
McConnell’s Senate Trumpcare is a terrible bill-it will take away the health insurance of 15 million Americans in 2018 alone; it will lead to 22 million losing it by 2026. Then the pain really kicks in, as McConnell has structured it so that the worst of it is actually backloaded. It will lead to 217,000 more deaths in the next 10 years.
Someone who makes $18,000 per year will see their deductibles skyrocket from $255 under ACA to over $6,000 under Senate Trumpcare. Even 4 million on employer healthcare will lose their insurance.
But it does:
1. Give the rich a huge tax cut
2. Save $228 billion dollars over the next 10 years-which clearly more than pays for those 217,000 deaths.
3. Gives McConnell bragging rights-he beat Obama.
Matt Yglesias is right:
We could have that if only Obama hadn't made the mistake of seeking bipartisan buy in on Obamacare.
— mike sax (@mikesaxny2) June 27, 2017
Ah-so, why don’t we have a public option? A lot of people on the Left blame the fiendish Max Baucus who obviously tabled the public option at the word of his donors in the insurance industry.
The reality is quite different. Whoever his donors very well might be, what was decisive was-Obama’s desire for bipartisanship.
“Max Baucus, the senior senator from Montana and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had a list. From the start of the Obama administration, Baucus had taken it upon himself to lay the groundwork for one of the new president’s top priorities, achieving near universal health coverage in a country where some 50 million lacked insurance. Baucus developed a white paper sketching out a legislative framework, and a long list of Republican senators who he thought might support the bill. Why bother with the list? After all, by the time Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter switched parties in late April from Republican to Democrat, the Democrats had enough votes in the Senate to break a filibuster.”
“But Baucus knew how much Obama spoke about transcending partisan divides—and he knew how important it was to get bipartisan backing for major changes in social policy. Implementation and national acceptance would be hard without some measure of consensus. After all, Social Security and Medicare had both gotten more than a dozen Republican votes in the Senate. Even in the more polarized twenty-first century, the Medicare drug benefit had passed in 2003 with a dozen Democratic votes—including Baucus’s.”
“Baucus had reason to believe he might get some Republican support. After all, the framework he was drawing up was modeled on proposals that had been offered by the conservative Heritage Foundation and by Republicans seeking an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan in 1993. Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, had signed similar legislation into law in Massachusetts. Baucus’s approach did not seek to replace private insurers with government-run, “single-payer” insurance like Medicare, but rather sought to cover the uninsured via private insurance, with subsidies and a mandate requiring individuals to get coverage to make the system work.”
And at first, Baucus was getting encouraging responses. No small number of Republicans told him they might just be able to sign on to his plan, particularly if he left out the “public option,” a government-run insurance plan to be offered private plans.”
The rest is history. Needless to say these GOPers that assured Baucus if they left the public option out they’d be interested never came through. Some like Chuck Grassley may have been sincere. But Mitch McConnell let them know he didn’t think that was very wise. He wanted no bipartisan buy in and that’s what he got.
So Obama and the Dems tabled the idea of a public option in exchange for GOP buy in that they didn’t get anyway.
Again, Obama’s bipartisan illusions are the cause of so much mischief:
I get why Obama had a hard time giving up on post partisanship. The ‘There is no Blue America or Red America’ really was a great speech and everyone loved it.
But why Mitch McConnell didn’t disabuse him of these illusions is a hard to understand.
P.S. So the Gravis poll against Peter King NY2 and it has good news-almost too good to believe.
In my March poll I trailed King by 11 and thought that was very good news. Now Gravis has me up by 10? Still, the moment of truth is next week when Gravis writes up the press release.
I can use any help I can get at this point-volunteers or supporters who live in NY 2. Donations whatever your zip code. These days we can’t just support a local Dem we need a Dem Congress. Which is why I’ve donated few hundred to Jon Ossoff.
Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House-$5 or $10 can do so much.
If you feel that you can’t I, of course, understand-who is rich these days? But please do me one favor: ask yourself privately, mentally, if you really can’t spare $5 dollars. If you can honestly say you can’t, no worries.
We can have a Dem Congress, we must have a Dem Cogress, and we will.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.