I’ve always believed that if there is something that needs to get done that is really important to you, you should put as much time and energy needed into making it happen. Makes sense right? I don’t want to speak for all of humanity, but I’d venture a guess that many people would agree with me. If health-care reform was a major pillar of a national party’s election back in 08 (enter from stage-left the Democratic Party) than wouldn’t you pour as much energy into getting that done? So now after months of work it looks like heath care reform (at least as we know it) is dead. There are rumors that some-sort of insurance reform will be passed instead, but that does little to solve some of the greater problems. So who is responsible for the death of health care reform? Through the months of ups and downs, eight names have been mentioned non-stop. Are all of them guilty of killing health care reform? No. But let’s take a look.
Not Guilty:#2 Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI)
Rep. Stupak authored the amendment to the House bill that would have banned federal funding from going to abortions. Without the amendment he, along with many other Blue Dogs, would not have supported the bill. The amendment was extremely controversial and several liberal Democrats threatened to vote against the final bill if the amendment was still in-place. The bill ended up passing with the Stupak amendment. Even with these controversies Stupak didn’t play a role in killing the bill. While his amendment is infuriating to liberal Democrats, it was necessary to secure the support of more moderate to conservative Democrats. You need votes to pass a bill, and if the amendment brought more votes to the table than it drove away then it didn’t kill the bill.
#1 Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Love her or hate her, everyone knows who Nancy Pelosi is. Regardless of what your opinion of her is, the fact is that she is the most powerful woman in American history. As recently as a few months ago Time named her the most powerful Speaker of the House we’ve seen in the past 50 years. She played a central role in working on health care and it is clear that she is not to blame for its demise. When the Senate was just beginning to start on their bill, Pelosi had a bill passed in the House. She had to balance the wishes from all wings of her party: the liberals, centrists, and even conservative Democrats all wanted a say in the bill. She masterfully crafted a bill that was able to gain support from both the most liberal Democrats and even some Blue Dogs. If anyone deserves to be cleared from charges, it’s her. She did everything possible to pass this bill. When she says that the House doesn’t have enough votes to pass the Senate’s version of the bill, you better believe it.
#6 Senator Scott Brown (R-MA)
You can’t really blame Scott Brown for doing what he was supposed to do. He was supposed to be against the health care bill. Rumors were that he was going in the senate election not to win, but to raise his profile across the state so he could run for Governor later. Surprise! Guess who the newest senator from Massachusetts is! While he has every right to be ecstatic now, he should be very cautious going forward. He is up for reelection in 2012 and there is no doubt that the Democrats will have him targeted. Unless he makes a huge about-face to the political-center it is unlikely that Massachusetts will re-elect him. He seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. If he stays conservative he is likely to lose the general election, but if he moderates he is likely to lose the primary. My advice to Scott Brown is to enjoy your victory while you have it. As soon as the 2010 midterms are over your job is going to get a lot more difficult.
#5 Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Senator Snowe found herself in a difficult situation as the health care battle unfolded. She, along with fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins, were well-known as being the only moderate Republicans left in the Senate. It became clear early on that Senator Collins was unwilling to work with Democrats, but Senator Snowe always left that option open. When negotiations over the public option began to break down, she quickly announced her opposition to it and refused to vote for any bill that contained a public option. When the final senate bill was voted on, she joined her 39 colleagues in voting no. She essentially voted against the type of bill she originally said she’d support. With Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts she is assuring that a health care bill will not pass. With polling data showing that she could be vulnerable to a primary challenge when her term is up in 2012, it is clear that she is in thin ice. By voting against the bill she is making it more likely that she can defeat a conservative opponent in the 2012 primary, but will Maine voters re-elect her after voting no on the bill? Only time will tell.
#4 Martha Coakley (D-MA)
It seems like it would be easy to say “Oh Martha Coakley, you tried…” She tried? Really? I missed the part of the election when she took it seriously and made some sort of attempt to win. She didn’t go out and shake hands with voters and decided the insulting the Boston Red Sox was a good plan. Calling her campaign “poor” is a gross understatement. She had every right to see herself as the clear favorite, but that is no excuse to take everything for granted. With so much on the line you would think that she would make some sort of attempt to win. She, without a doubt, deserves to be blamed.
#3 President Barack Obama
Yes, he did a good job in staying out of the dirty-work in negotiating a bill, but that is exactly why the President should be blamed. This was his imitative, he did a good job in pressuring Congress to get a bill written, but he did little to outline what he wanted. So much time could have been saved if he had clearly outlined what he wanted in a bill. The last time he did that was in the campaign a year ago. All Congress needed was a little direction and weeks of worthless debate and uncertainty could have been avoided. And the question needs to be asked “Was this the right time to deal with this?” Was the start of his presidency when the economy was the chief issue really the best time to take on the monumental task of health care reform? Clearly he expected it to be a tough battle, but did he underestimate just how intense it would be? I certainly don’t know.
#2 Senator Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT)
When he ran for President in 2004 he campaigned for health care reform and a public option. Regardless of your political affiliation you can understand why liberals hate Joe Lieberman. It goes far beyond his vocal endorsement of John McCain in 2008, he is essentially back-stabbing his supporters. It came as a complete shock when he came out and openly said that he would filibuster any bill containing a public option or Medicare expansion. It was a complete 180 from what he campaigned on, and severely complicated the bill-writing process. Senator Lieberman’s complete change opened the door for other conservative Democrats to openly oppose the bill. I can’t even begin to figure out what it was that Joe was thinking. He already was on shaky ground before he went turncoat on the bill, but his approval numbers have plummeted. If Lieberman runs for re-election in 2012 it is bound to be a very bloody race. The worst part is that it wouldn’t have to be that way. If Joe had stuck to what he originally campaigned on he wouldn’t have to face these problems, and we’d likely have a health care bill.
#1 Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
I struggled with who deserves to get the most blame. I really wanted to blame Joe Lieberman, but that was out of vengeance for his betrayal. When it comes down to it the most blame lies with the Senate Majority Leader: Harry Reid. He controlled the largest majority the Senate has seen in years and somehow that ended up not being enough for a bill. It is true that the Democrats’ majority was a collation; the caucus was composed of liberal, moderate, and conservative members. Balancing such a diverse group is challenging but it is clear that Harry Reid is not up to the task. Mitch McConnell has been more successful in his goals with a 40 member caucus than Reid has been with a 60 member group. When the House had their final vote, the Senate hadn’t even begun working on the bill. Under Harry Reid’s leadership the Senate has turned into a giant quagmire. Who would have guessed that 60 seats weren’t enough to pass bills? The worst part about all of this is that I actually am hoping that Harry Reid loses in the midterms this November. Yes it will put Democrats down a seat, but if the past two years in the Senate have taught us anything it is that being “filibuster-proof” doesn’t get you far. The #2 and #3 Democrats (Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer) are already laying the groundwork for a campaign to become the next leader of the Democrats in the Senate. Both Durbin and Schumer are known as being hard-line and for not taking prisoners. Democrats would lose a seat but gain a strong leader. After the fiasco that has been health care reform, that’s a trade I’m willing to make.