If you’re following the health care reform debate — and ongoing drama — you know that it apparently is right down to the wire. THE DEMOCRATS MAY PASS IT (Republicans fear). THE DEMOCRATS MAY CAVE AND NOT PASS IT (Some Democrats fear).
But was there a turning point of sorts today? Former Republican House Majority Leader and current Tea Party leader Dick Armey took some blunt potshots at House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi — and also asserted his view that health care reform will likely pass. The fact that it’s coming from Armey and not one of the smug partisan talking heads on TV (both parties have an oversupply of them) suggests that it’s closer to passage than ever. (But never underestimate the Democratic party to take a shotgun, aim it south and shoot itself in its own foot). ABC News reports:
Former Republican House Majority Leader and current Tea Party leader Dick Armey said today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “inept” but that Congress would likely still pass health care reform.
“What has probably surprised me more than anything else about Speaker Pelosi is her ineptness,” Armey said at luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “I didn’t realize anyone could rise to the position of Speaker and be that inept.”
Despite his harsh criticism of the Speaker, Armey said that he personally liked Pelosi and he defended her from people who say she’s mean.
“She’s more inept than I thought she was, but she’s not as mean as people think she is,” Armey said.
But even with Pelosi’s “inept” leadership, Armey says Democrats will most likely pass health care reform legislation that has been debated for the last year and is expected to come to a vote this week.
“They’ll probably force this through,” he said. “But you can’t discount the number of people who can be moved by a ruthless and powerful political leader or group of political leaders.”
The FreedomWorks chairman also had harsh word for the rest of Congress – the “self-serving” people he suggests are equally to blame for the passage of health care legislation.
“The average member Congress – House and Senate – is first and foremost only a self-serving inconvenience-minimizer who doesn’t have a lot of principle they stand on the first place,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to move a jellied spine, so they’ll probably get their votes.”
And will the Dems reap political dividends? Armey sees the opposite:
Asked if Democrats will get a bounce in poll numbers if they pass health care reform, Armey said Democrats “will get politically bounced” from office. Armey is confident that Harry Reid will lose his Senate seat in November and that Republicans will regain a majority in both houses of Congress either this election cycle or the next..
Reid does indeed now seem to be Political Dead Man Walking.
However, the Democratic party will be in far worse shape if it fails to pass some version of health care reform and totally turns off its base. It seems unlikely that Democrats would get support from tea party members anyway if they nixed health care reform. Meanwhile, at this writing, it already seems as if President Barack Obama and his political party are starting to lose many of the young voters that helped propel the party and Obama to victory and are losing — or have aleady completely lost — a golden opportunity to substantially influence the Supreme Court’s political anchor via future appointments.
In a way it is indeed “heads I win, tails you lose” for the Democrats on this one.
The question is the extent of the loss, its shelf life (an election, a decade or a generation?), and how well positioned the GOP is to take advantage of an erosion in Democratic support. (If Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are the faces of the GOP the party will not be able to capitalize on Democratic toe stubbing or self-destruction).
That aside: Armey indicating that he thinks it’s going to pass should reassure some — and concern others. Just as the final action will.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.