Democrats’ attempt to pass healthcare reform in the U.S. Senate prior to Christmas took a major blow over the weekend when Sen. Joe Lieberman announced in an interview and in a private meeting with Senate Majority Harry Reid that he would not support the Reid-Obama bill in its current form. (Read: he will not vote for cloture.)
That leaves Reid and the Obama White House one vote short of the 60 they need to cut off debate, at least for now.
Senate Democrats were caught flat-footed by Lieberman’s statement. They had assumed that they could count on his support for the latest “compromise” version of the public option: an expanded version of the Federal Employee Health Care Plan that would be open to consumers and subsidized by the government, combined with a “buy in” to Medicare by those aged 55-64.
That “compromise,” which in many ways was worse than the original public option because it hastened Medicare’s massive and looming unfunded liabilities and deficit, was rumored to be getting what one Hill source told me was a “very bad number” from the Congressional Budget Office.
Now it appears to be dead even before the CBO gives it a number, which means Reid is back to the drawing board.
Meanwhile, support for Obamacare is imploding in the polls, making Democrats even more nervous than they already were about the 2010 elections. Fox News has a new poll out that finds that only 41 percent of the American people want Congress to pass healthcare reform this year, while 54 percent prefer that Congress “do nothing on health care for now.”
A whopping 57 percent oppose the healthcare reform legislation currently being debated in Congres.
The truth is the Reid bill is disastrous public policy, and most Americans want Congress to “hit the restart button” and begin anew.
I never thought CNN would show public sentiment even more hostile to Obama than Fox, but the latest CNN poll finds that only 36 percent of the American people support the Senate version of Obamacare, while an astonishing 61 percent oppose it. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said it would increase the deficit, and a large majority say it will increase their taxes.
The smart money inside the Beltway continues to be that healthcare legislation in some form will pass and be signed into law by President Obama. But the smart money has been wrong before.
Obamacare appears to be in serious jeopardy of going the same way that Bill Clinton’s plan for healthcare did in 1993-1994. What is driving this downward spiral is the increasing conviction among Democrats that continuing to talk about healthcare (read: more spending, higher taxes, bigger deficits) is political suicide when voters are concerned about jobs and the economy.
A huge new federal entitlement program that costs $2 trillion is not something that we can afford at a time of the worse recession in post-World War II history.
If Reid can’t herd the cats in the Senate and find a way to get to 60 votes for cloture, soon, then healthcare will slip into 2010, an election year.
That was the last thing the Democrats wanted, and it portends political trouble for them in the off-year elections if it unfolds.
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