Playing "What If" with Health-Care Reform

Like almost every Democrat with claims to being a moderate, outgoing Virginia Senator Jim Webb doesn’t seem to understand that partisan politics are zero-sum:

What happened in the end, Webb said, “was five different congressional committees voted out their version of health-care reform, and so you had 7,000 pages of contradictory information. Everybody got confused. … From that point forward, Obama’s had a difficult time selling himself as a decisive leader.”

Webb also said that if Obama had opted for a smaller measure, he would have stood a chance of winning the support of a significant number of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

I have no doubt that Senator Webb maintains cordial relations with his GOP colleagues in the Senate; regardless, it’s simply true that Republicans were opposed to advancing a health-care bill of any size, even after Democrats floated a smaller, compromise bill following Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts. It’s not hard to see why; a bipartisan legislative victory for President Obama is a political victory for Democrats. Why would Republicans give them the advantage?

I also want to second Scott Lemieux’s take on this; what Webb underscores—more than anything—is that it took an enormous amount of political capital to pass health-care reform, given the degree to which many Democrats simply didn’t give a shit:

The Webb/Frank critique is at least coherent — essentially, it’s that Obama’s mistake was trying to pass any kind of significant health care legislation, and continuing the status quo for another generation would have been fine. […] You have no negotiating leverage over people who don’t care if anything passes, and Webb and the other conservative Democrats who held the balance of power in the Senate can’t even be bothered to pretend that they cared.

Sometimes, I’m shocked by the fact that anything productive or worthwhile happened in the 111th Congress.

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