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Today in Health Care Reform — End It Today, Ben

December 18, 2009

Today in Health Care Reform

With the defense appropriations bill set for passage on Saturday, Harry Reid has cleared the way to focus on health care until — and perhaps during — Christmas. But he still doesn’t have 60 votes. Ben Nelson is holding out. So is Bernie Sanders.

Meanwhile, before departing for Copenhagen, President Obama met with Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine. Why? Because Snowe’s vote for cloture would not only provide bipartisan cover; it would also allow Ben Nelson to be the sixty-first, not the sixtieth, vote to end debate. If Nelson is the sixtieth vote to proceed to a final vote on health care reform — a vote the Democrats surely would win — he’d be vulnerable to the attack that he’s the man responsible for Obamacare. Snowe provides a way out. Unfortunately for the White House, after her meeting Snowe said a vote by Christmas was “totally unrealistic.”

In other health care news, as both Bill Kristol and Mary Katherine Ham have noted, David Brooks writes today that he would not vote for the Senate bill in its current form. Expect Brooks to take a shellacking in the liberal blogosphere for his apostasy. But expect, too, that his column will be read with great interest in the offices of moderate Democrats and Republicans. This was not a “helpful” column for the White House and Senate Democratic leadership.

Maybe it’s time for Harry Reid to take a snow day?

Posted by Matthew Continetti at 09:09 AM
Health Care | E-mail the author | E-mail article

End It Today, Ben

There’s a really big snowstorm coming to D.C.tonight. It would be unsafe to ask all the staffers and Hill employees who’d be needed at the Capitol if Congress stays open all hours this weekend, as Harry Reid intends, to drive to and from work–especially since many will have to do so at night, and they won’t be well-rested. So from the point of view of public safety and personal well-being, Ben Nelson can do everyone a favor, announce today he won’t vote for cloture, and let everyone stay home this weekend.

Furthermore, Harry Reid is maniacally insisting on a Christmas Eve vote on a bill whose final text no one has seen yet. So from a good government point of view, Nelson can say that he feels he has to be against cloture.

And of course there’s no need to vote in December rather than January or February–it’s just that Reid fears the already unpopular bill can’t stand up to more public examination and debate. So from the point of view of respecting democracy and the American people, Nelson can insist that he needs time–once we have Reid’s text–to go back to Nebraska and have some town meetings to let his constituents’ voices be heard.

Finally, President Obama has had no more sincere well-wisher among moderate commentators than David Brooks. This morning, Brooks writes, “If I were a senator forced to vote today, I’d vote no. If you pass a health care bill without systemic incentives reform, you set up a political vortex in which the few good parts of the bill will get stripped out and the expensive and wasteful parts will be entrenched.” (President Obama, in Copenhagen, reportedly just said, “If I’ve lost David Brooks, I’ve lost enlightened America.”)

So public safety, good government, democracy, and David Brooks all argue for Ben Nelson saying today that we’ll all benefit from a nice holiday break during which we can talk with the American people and recharge our batteries, and that he looks forward to seeing everyone in the New Year.

Posted by William Kristol at 07:50 AM
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