An interesting dynamic is brewing in Congress among Democrats, and with the White House in the middle, as their circular firing squad on Obamacare continues.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post as well as other liberals have pointed out that Sen. Mary Landrieu’s Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act , which is a various of Republican Rep. Fred Upton’s Keep Your Health Plan Act, is forcing the hand of Democrats in the House of Representative.
Landrieu’s plan is going to be hard for Red State Democrats to ignore. Poll numbers on Obamacare are plummeting as the Administration’s incompetence becomes more apparent. Sen. Kay Hagan’s vanishing lead in North Carolina will only hasten to increase the pressure on these vulnerable Senators. Furtherm0re, even relatively safe liberals like Jeff Merkley of Oregon have signed on to Landrieu’s plan, showing the political pressure Democrats are under.
For the House, who has always been more steadfast in their support of President Obama, this puts them between a rock and a hard place. Most House Democrats are in safer districts than their Senate counterparts, and thus can afford to hold the line. But how much pressure is too much?
This builds an interesting dynamic of triangulation for the White House. They need to balance the needs of their liberal allies in the Senate, while still making the political choices palatable to their friends in the House.
But this becomes more difficult by the day. Again, from Sargent:
A senior Democratic aide tells me opposition to the Upton plan will be increasingly difficult to maintain among House Dems if the administration doesn’t offer a workable fix of its own. The aide adds the need to maintain House Dem opposition has been made more urgent by another problem: Senate Dems (the latest being Dianne Feinstein) supporting their own politically expedient “fixes” that could also undermine the law.
“Now that Feinstein has broken off, that makes it even more important that House Democrats stay together as much as possible — to keep Senate Ds from caving,” the senior Dem aide says. But the aide adds, in a reference to this week’s House action: ”We need an administrative fix that works before the vote.”
This puts all the pressure on Obama; but his choices are slim. Delaying the individual mandate is actually very bad policy now (I personally oppose the Upton plan for a myriad of reasons). Obama cannot do that and not make the systemic problems worse. There is no Presidential order that will give people their insurance back to them. And the other legislative fixes are nonstarters either in the House or Senate.
So one of two dynamics shape up: one, the Senate passes Landrieu’s bill, and House Democrats are left fighting a losing fight against the Upton bill, in which case they will have to defend voting against this bill to the public.
The second option is that House Democrats fold, and Obama is forced to veto this bill, in which case all the blame falls upon him, after he just promised he would do ‘everything imaginable’ to fix the problem.
Either way, there isn’t any safe harbor for Democrats on this issue. They are fooling themselves that any of this will protect them from the wrath of the American voter if the ACA fails as incredibly as events so far have shown. From a political standpoint, I think at this point they would be better served to circle the wagons and defend their progressive policies. But the panic instinct among politicians is so profound, they must appear like they are doing something productive, even when the target of their attacks are members of their own party, or their own President.
So the Democrat circular firing squad continues.