Thursday, March 11, 2010


Steve Benen agrees with Jonathan Chait that the latest GOP moves to try to block health care reform seem clumsy and desperate. I'm not so sure:

But [Republicans'] latest tactic is so obvious I wonder how it could possibly work. Republicans are warning Democrats that passing health care reform will make them less popular. They are alerting the House that Senators will betray any deal they make. And they are insisting that reconciliation will be a bloody, protracted fight, even signing a letter promising to invoke the "Byrd Rule" to strike out any non-budgetary measures from a reconciliation bill.

Here's what Chait says about that last item -- and, yeah, I suppose in a rational political environment his argument would make sense:

...threatening to fight reconciliation is a threat to fight popular changes -- delaying the excise tax, canceling special deals for Florida and Nebraska -- after a comprehensive health care reform has already become a fait accompli. The GOP would be putting itself on the wrong side of public opinion to stop a bill that's already passed.

Well, that's logical. But the Republicans aren't fighting on logic.

They're insurgents -- they're like the insurgents who made Iraq ungovernable after the fall of Saddam. The point would be to sow chaos -- chaos and confusion. Obviously Republicans are saying this in the hope that Democrats will get cold feet about the whole pass-the-Senate-bill-then-tweak-it-through-reconciliation process. But I think if Part One of that plan does happen, they really will make good on their threats regarding Part Two -- one reason being that they don't want the bill improved if it passes. Yes, I think they really would be shameless enough to run in 2010 against provisions of a bill whose repeal they prevented.

Really, why not? The whole process is confusing to voters, and Republicans take full advantage of that -- they'd assume that, with their superior messaging, voters would never figure out who's to blame. Besides, their tactic will be to focus voters on what they'll say is the monstrous evil of the bill as a whole. And I think they just want the health care battle in Washington to never end, a prolongation of the conflict they can lay at the feet of Democrats, all while the economy remains weak. Why wouldn't that work? Because Democrats would refute the GOP narrative with passionate arguments? When has that ever happened?


And speaking of sowing chaos, I wasn't quite aware of how many wins these guys are racking up, even if the wins are (for now) symbolic:

This week, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal signed House Joint Resolution 2 (HJ0002), claiming "sovereignty on behalf of the State of Wyoming and for its citizens under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government or reserved to the people by the Constitution of the United States." ...

In a memorandum sent to the Wyoming legislature in late January, Freudenthal made clear his position that the federal government has gone beyond the limits of the constitution....

Wyoming joins 10 other states that have passed similar resolutions since last year; Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Tennessee passed theirs in 2009, and Utah, Alabama, and South Carolina have joined Wyoming in passing resolutions this year....

Supporters of such legislation point to laws passed by other states that take the next step -- and work to nullify specific federal laws seen as unconstitutional by the state.... The legislatures in both Virginia and Arizona have passed legislation effectively nullifying a national health care plan within their borders....

These are non-binding resolutions -- but states where this Tenth Amendment movement is popular are going to be additional fronts in the GOP battle against health care reform if it passes. (Governor Freudenthal is a Democrat, but the Wyoming House and Senate are overwhelmingly Republican.) Part of the sowing-chaos process is just going to be making a lot of noise, in the hope that less-attentive voters will simply assume the bill must be awful or there wouldn't be so much dissatisfaction with it.

I know Steve Benen, among others despises the argument that health care is President Obama's Iraq War, but one way in which that's true is that the mission won't be accomplished (as it were) once Baghdad fal-- er, once the bill is signed. At that point, the battle may be just beginning. There's going to be a GOP insurgency, and it's going to be aimed at making administration of HCR as difficult as the Iraqi insurgents made the governing of Iraq.

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