August 4, 2011
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When Washington conservatives gather to talk among themselves, and the discussion turns to Obamacare — it happens pretty frequently — it’s not unusual to hear predictions that the president’s health care law will “collapse of its own weight.” It’s a “train wreck,” many say, quoting Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. It’s unworkable. It’s going to be a big, smoking ruin.
There’s a fundamental conflict at the heart of the Senate debate over the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill. Most Republicans believe a policy to integrate 11 million currently illegal immigrants into American society must be conditioned on stronger border security and internal enforcement. Most Democrats don’t. At bottom, that’s what the fight is about.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was widely mocked when she said of Obamacare, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." At the time, March 2010, Pelosi's words accurately described the Democrats' just-get-it-done approach to passing a national health care bill. But now it turns out Pelosi was wrong. In fact, we have to implement Obamacare so that you can find out what is in it.
It's possible to have a strong hand and still overplay it. As Republicans see things, that's what President Obama is doing in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations.
Others are partisan, too; until the new debt deal, the Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell, voted to increase the debt limit when Republican George W. Bush was president and against increasing the debt limit when Democrat Barack Obama was president. The point is that leaders who have voted along strictly partisan lines might want to think twice before denouncing others as partisan.
Here's a scary exercise for Republicans. First, make a graph of Bill Clinton's job approval ratings for the nine months following November 1994, when Republicans dealt him a crushing defeat in midterm elections. Then superimpose Barack Obama's job approval ratings for the nine months following November 2010, when Republicans dealt him a crushing defeat in midterm elections. The lines look pretty similar.- Byron York, syndicated columnist