Why is it that after a prolonged silence on my site I inevitably come back by writing about something incredibly contentious and controversial? I suppose it’s because of all the talking I do. I’m a talker, as any of my friends will tell you. Always making with the word noise and the subjects and the predicates. Always. When it comes to something as culturally omnipresent as the healthcare bill, eventually I’ll reach a point where I’ve done so much talking that I’ll think, You know, I really wish I had some kind of public platform where I could OH WAIT I PAY FOR A WEBSITE.
The Healthcare Reform Bill passed in the House 219-212 and was signed by President Obama the very next day. It is law. The Republicans in the Senate will do what they can to obstruct the reconciliation phase of it, not that it will matter. This thing is huge, and it is here to stay, and I couldn’t be happier. I think Joe Biden nailed the appropriate reaction, but then, reactions do vary.
On the conservative end of the spectrum, I hear a lot of people saying that the Obama administration has variously rammed, crammed, jammed, and slammed this thing down America’s throat. I don’t really see how any of those metaphors are appropriate. Two years of public discussion, a year of legislative debate, endless opinion polling, and a truly unprecedented seven hour, televised bipartisan discussion of the bill don’t feel much like a cramming or ramming to me. But I can understand why a conservative might feel the way, if for no other reason than change is hard. But this is a change that was long overdue, and it’s clear that, had Republicans truly gotten what they wanted, we’d have no reform at all. I have to agree with Stephen Colbert. If Republicans really cared about healthcare reform, they’d have done something, anything about it in the sixteen years they ruled Congress.
But no, the Republicans produced no real healthcare reform in all that time, even when they had absolute control over both the executive and the legislature. They could not, would not, in the west wing. They would not, could not, because the free market’s the thing. They could not, would not in the House. They would not, could not for your same-sex spouse. They could not, would not, in the Senate. They would not, could not, even though they said they meant it. They did not like healthcare reform, not for the old, or those still in a dorm.
See? Us liberals can rhyme, too.
Speaking of liberals, I hear a lot of grousing on that side of the fence as well. Something about how the bill isn’t progressive enough, but it’s probably the best we could get. Well, yes. Let’s stop and think about this for a second. Isn’t this how the legislature is supposed to work? One party comes forward with its idea, the other side disagrees, and a compromise is debated and (hopefully) signed into law. Democrats came forward with Obama’s aggressively progressive proposal and then whittled it down until they got something they could actually pass. The bill passed, by the way, with roughly the slimmest margin allowable. If just four more representatives had decided to vote against it—four out of four hundred and thirty-one—the bill would be dead. The bill that the Democrats passed was literally the best bill they could have gotten at this moment in history.
What I find funny (or appalling, depending on your mood) is that all of the aforementioned compromise took place within the Democratic caucus. No Republicans, not one out of the one hundred and seventy-eight in that chamber, voted for this bill. That can’t be right. Not a single Republican felt that this bill was passable? A bill that includes insurance exchange markets in lieu of a public healthcare option? A bill that passed with the blessing of the abortion-obsessed Bart Stupak? Party of No, indeed. David Frum is right to call this a Republican Waterloo, a crushing defeat made all the worse by the GOP’s absolute unwillingness to forge anything resembling a compromise. Perhaps John Boehner should take all those clean sheets of paper he was talking about and use them to draft some serious modifications to the Republican platform. You are not the majority party anymore, and the lockstep conformity that worked so well for you in the Bush era is going to do nothing now but march you off a cliff. But by all means, keep trying it.
The debate, at last, is over. Our government has made the hard decision; the decision to change. Only time will tell which party will be vindicated in the end (but guess which one I’m betting on!). Now, let’s all take the advice of the Republican governor of California and let off some steam.