Mark Schmitt is a senior fellow and advisor to the president at the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank affiliated with the FDR Library. He is a former executive editor of The American Prospect.
That health care reform might be passed without the involvement of any Republican senators is an irresistibly tempting thought. Who needs 'em? Unfortunately, the possibility of that happening is but an illusion. To get all 60 Democratic votes in the Senate puts one at the mercy of the two or three most conservative and disruptive Democrats (Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu et. al.) who are in their own ways more difficult than the two or three most cooperative Republicans. And those Democrats will be a lot more comfortable if there are at least two or three Republicans providing them with cover. As a result, health reform is much more likely to get either 64 votes or 56 than to hover on the cusp of 60.
The “New Blow to Health Plan” that was delivered over the weekend by the Congressional Budget Office illustrates the unusually powerful role that the CBO plays in determining the range of possibilities for reform, but also a little-understood fact about the CBO: It's judgments are often guesses about probabilities, and they are often guessing about political, not economic, probabilities.
My friend and colleague from the New America Foundation, Michael Lind, has a provocative article in Salon on health reform -- well, the headline is provocative ("More Raw Deal than New Deal"), but the substance is actually a thoughtful and somewhat complicated journey through his own evolving thinking about health reform since he and Ted Halstead pushed an individual mandate to buy insurance in their 2001 book, The Radical Center.
Do liberals have a coherent theory about the Constitution? A few years ago, this would be the question hanging in the air at the end of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Conservatives had their claim to a theory – call it “originalism,” “textualism,” “judges should interpret the law, not make it,” or Chief Justice Roberts' “judge as umpire.” Liberals could call out the contradictions in these slogans, but it wasn't clear where they stood themselves. As Yale law professors Robert Post and Reva Siegelwrote in 2007, “progressives have grown confused and uncertain.
On day four of the Sotomayor hearings, the focus was on her role in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano, the New Haven firefighter case. “Mr. Ricci has a story to tell, too,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham in a condescending lecture to Sotomayor. Ricci told that story this afternoon.