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Posted by on Dec 25, 2009 in Economy, Health, Media, Politics, Society | 22 comments

A Stunning Achievement

Who knew that Harry Reid had the kind of steel in his spine that it took to get health care reform through the Senate? If anyone had told me a year ago that he would have the fortitude, perseverance, toughness, and sheer guts that it took to pass this legislation against the implacable, uncompromising opposition and nihilistic obstructionism of Senate Republicans, I would have fallen on the floor laughing. In Ezra Klein’s words, “Harry Reid has much to be proud of today.”

Here is the reaction round-up that I was not able to get to yesterday. I know that Joe did a roundup of news coverage and blogger commentary yesterday, soon after the early morning vote, so I will try to hit different sources and not duplicate Joe’s work.

Nate Silver at has the nutshell analysis:

The bill is noteworthy both for the massive commitment it makes — close to $200 billion per year in public subsidies to poor, sick, and uninsured people — and also because it was passed in the face of fairly strong public opposition.

As a piece of policy, it is assuredly imperfect, although some of the conservative and liberal criticisms alike have been based on misinformation and half-truths. It is principally a coverage bill, expected to extend insurance to 30 million Americans, rather than a cost-containment one, which would probably have required more fundamental alterations to the status quo’s employer-based insurance system.

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon  on the possibilities of being both radical and practical:

Anyway, the point is that I’m The Left—I hate corporate sellouts, I think the war in Afghanistan is a bad idea, I’ve got big time socialist leanings—and I’m far more into the “eh, we’re not going to get anything better by killing it, and killing it would be criminally negligent, so let’s calm down” camp.

The reason is that I read arguments like this or this or this and think that they make their case, full stop.  One of our bloggers at Pandagon—Auguste—has written before about how he pays 19% of his income to an insurance company, and so the anger that you may have to pay 8% of your income to an insurance company rings a little hollow to me as a complaint.  That would be a massive cost savings to Auguste, should he be able to benefit.  (Right now, this is mostly aimed at the uninsured, so people who are going through employers have a different shakeout.) I agree with the defenders that we have to work with the Senate we have, and not the Senate we want.


We shouldn’t despair of this task; we have had remarkable achievements in a short period of time, which is why Obama got to be President in the first place.  But we need to understand that there will never be a time to rest on our laurels, and therefore it’s not some sort of betrayal of our deeply held beliefs to allow that “better than nothing” is better than nothing.

Jon Perr reminds us of why Republicans were (and are) so keen to deep-six this bill — and it isn’t because they believe the American people will hate the Democrats for passing it. I mean, come on, folks.

Senate passage of the health care bill this morning naturally brought fond remembrances of reform’s long time champion, Ted Kennedy. While his successor Paul Kirk announced, “He’s having a merry Christmas in heaven,” Kennedy’s long-time Massachusetts colleague John Kerry concurred, “Ted Kennedy is up there smiling.”But back here on earth, it’s worth remembering why his Republican opponents waged an all-out war for four decades to block Ted Kennedy’s dream of universal health care for the American people from ever being realized. At the end of the day, what Kennedy’s close friend Orrin Hatch declared a “holy war” wasn’t a crusade against “socialism”, a “government takeover of health care”, “rationing”, “the doctor-patient relationship” or mythical “death panels.”

It was all about politics. More than anything else, Republicans wanted to prevent an enduring Democratic majority. We know this, because Orrin Hatch and so many of his GOP allies told us so.

Bruce Drake of Politics Daily has a related piece on why negative poll results on health care reform don’t necessarily mean what they seem to mean:

Republicans and other critics of health care overhaul have seized on poll numbers reflecting public opposition and unease to accuse President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders of trying to ram through a measure that Americans don’t want.But but these snapshots of public opinion aren’t necessarily good indicators of how voters will feel later about the legislation and what impact it will have on next year’s midterm elections, opinion experts say.

Pollsters such as Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center say it’s not surprising that public opinion has taken a negative turn. “When you have unified and vehement criticism of the legislation from one side, and division and heated debate among the other side, it’s no wonder that much of the public is ambivalent or downright negative about it,” he said. “I see little prospect that this will change unless and until supporters of reform agree on a bill and then promote it enthusiastically to the country.”

Drake goes on to connect this to why Democrats were so determined to get the health care reform bill out of the Senate before Christmas (and by extension why Republicans wanted to prevent them from doing so at all costs):

There is no question that the contentious debate in Washington is taking its toll on public opinion. While Keeter of the Pew Research Center says, “Our polling throughout the year has shown that the public supports most of the key provisions in the draft legislation,” that dynamic will change if the debate is drawn out too long. It’s no surprise, then, that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have pushed so hard to get the Senate bill done by Christmas.

Matthew Yglesias is woo-hooing:

The health care bill passed! As you know, my view is this: For all its flaws, if signed into law this bill would be the greatest progressive social policy achievement in over forty years. It’s fine not to be satisfied with this legislation, but it’s perverse not to be happy about it. The important thing is to try to make sure that we don’t need to wait another forty years before additional major improvements become possible.

Barbara O’Brien has lots of interesting links, as well as this notation on the individual mandate:

Some recent commenters seem to think that the mandates are only in place because the private insurers wanted them, and that I support them only because I’m a mean person who wants to force people to buy expensive insurance policies. There is actually a solid and rational reason why there have to be mandates. Also, Joshua Holland has a good article on the mandates at AlterNet, in which he provides data showing how much people will have to pay for their insurance. I think you will find this information reassuring.

Via Steve Benen, Kevin Drum shares his thoughts on why this should feel like a victory, even if it doesn’t:

I’m 51 years old and this bill is, without question, the biggest progressive advance in my adult life. You have to go back to the great environmental acts of the early 70s to get close, and to the civil rights/Medicare era to beat it. That’s four decades, the last three of which have constituted an almost unbroken record of conservative ascendency. And now that ascendancy is just days away from being — finally, decisively — broken.


A trillion dollars in benefit for low and middle income workers. 95% of Americans insured. Medical bankruptcies on the verge of disappearing. And for the first time ever, an acknowledgement that decent healthcare ought to be universal in the United States. This is historic. This is a cause for celebration, not recriminations. As recently as 2005, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see this day, and now, a mere three years later, it’s here. I can still hardly believe it.

My sentiments, exactly.

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