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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Climate Change, Health Care, and the Dem's Governance Problem

Back in 2006, Dick Morris pointed out that the Democrats have a fundamental governance problem. It is simply impossible to coalesce factions that include moderates like the Blue Dogs, the New Democrats, with the likes of the Congressional Black Caucas, Congressional Hispanic Caucas, as well as the far left Soros wing of the party. Both the Blue Dogs and the New Democrats have enough members that, when voting together, they can stop any bill if they vote with Republicans. Because most of both of these groups are much more often in agreement with conservatives rather than liberal democrats, this is a problem for most of the president's agenda.

Rahm Emanuel brilliantly recruited dozens of candidates in moderate and conservative districts that were essentially no less conservative than their Republican candidates, and in many cases more so, back in 2006. By doing so, he created a majority for the Democrats. Yet, it is a majority that makes it nearly impossible to govern.

Now, you have to be following serious inside baseball to see how this governance problem has manifested throughout Obama's agenda. Right now, cap and trade is on life support. That's because there are serious objections from legislators that are not only in districts that would be adversely affected by the restrictions on coal, gas, and other CO2 "pollutants", but also by all of the newly created moderate Democrats that are against the plan on ideology.

Now, on health care, we have the exact same thing forming. Here's how Politco describes the dilemma.

In the meetings, the Blue Dogs were concerned with process and how the reforms would be paid for, while the New Dems were focused on policy.

Still, both groups raised concerns over the controversial proposal to create a public insurance plan that competes with the private insurance market.

During the meeting with the New Dems, the committee chairmen made it clear that including the public plan was central to bringing costs down, according to a source familiar with the meetings.

The groups agree that the public plan can't be based on Medicare rules, that it must pay for itself and operate under the same rules that private plans do. The principles are similar to a public plan option rolled out by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"There's a good chance if we can work out the details — because I don't think they can pass it without us — having a public plan option that can compete may be the compromise," Ross said.

But a senior leadership aide involved in the process said that Blue Dogs are going to have to make a choice.

The policy differences that both the New Democrats and the Blue Dogs have with Obama's sweeping universal health care proposal go to the heart of his proposal entirely. They are concerned with the manner in which the public option will operate. They want it to be a for profit operation. If that's the case, there's almost no point to passing the bill. A for profit operation run by the government is a sure failure.

Then, there is the second sticking point. How does the president plan on paying for it? The Blue Dogs are strong proponents of pay go, paying for any spending increases with spending cuts elsewhere. This proposal will cost north of $120 billion yearly. So far, Obama has only found $30 billion in new taxes. He's still $90 billion short.

Both the Blue Dogs and New Dogs were nearly non existent in the debate over the stimulus. Yet, that was weeks into the new presidency of a very popular president. I said from the beginning that these groups would be the Congressional rainmakers. That's what's emerging.

What President Obama is realizing is that his very liberal agenda needs the support of a Congress that, ironically enough, is a majority of moderates and conservatives. As such, all of his signature proposals are stalled.

There is no easy answer here. The only way to pass cap and trade is to water it down so much that it is rendered totally impotent. The only way to pass universal health care is to put together a mish mash of ideas that no one will be pleased. The so called universal health care proposal that is likely to come out won't necessarily cover everyone. It will be a mish mash of ideas that will likely cause rationing, sky rocketing costs, all while some or even a lot of those currently uncovered will still be uncovered. There's really no other way to do it. The moderates won't vote for his proposal. The ideas they have will water it down. Once the president tries to please everyone, the proposal will turn into a monstrocity that pleases no one.

I think soon enough we are going to find out that the president's bold agenda will ultimately wind up nothing more than a figment of his imagination. Passing most of it will be a non starter and that's because the mish mash of groups that make up the Democratic party created a Democrats' governance problem. By problem I mean, they simply can't govern with their competing coalitions.


Anonymous said...

I think your idea is one of the reasons the Democrats are going after a Blue Dog proof majority in the House. The same people who promoted Obama's candidacy are also promoting a "Elect Better Democrats" campaign.

In any case, I feel like Obama making Emanuel his Chief of Staff was one of the things Obama did to promote his goals. Promoting him not only removed him from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, it also effectively removed a conservative Democrat from Congress. I also think Emanuel knew this was Obama's goal, and that's why it took him so long to accept.

Once again, 2010 will tell the tale. If Democrats like Gilibrand and Specter end up losing their primaries it would be a good sign for Obama.

mike volpe said...

I agree with everything except Emanuel is no moderate. He put together a brilliant electoral strategy, however Emanuel is a Chicago Machine down the line liberal politician.

Jason Gillman said...

Emanuel is something else IMO..

Smart folks such as he are hardly ignored when recruiting is done by certain intelligence services. Given his historical background in the IDF, and the levels of access he has maintained here, its amazing so few consider it.