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This Too Shall Pass

March 20, 2010

The French Cowboy has the unpleasant notion that the health care bill will pass in the House this Sunday. The easiest way for Pelosi to get all the votes she needs, and even more than those, is to make some promises to the Stupak bloc. The pro-abortion Democrats will make a show of how they won’t accept any pro-life amendment, but ultimately they know that they won’t have a net gain from actually voting ‘no’ on the bill. That is assuming that pro-abortion Dems don’t find an actual expansion of abortion rights more important than getting ObamaCare per se. If they insist on getting both, ObamaCare and tax-payer funded abortion, they are likely to end up with neither. It would be the logical thing to accept ObamaCare without an abortion-subsidy provision.

I expect the deal with the Stupac bloc to be comlicated and opaque – it will neatly fit into the general process this bill has gone through so far. Word is that Pelosi’s office has been busy as a pigeonry till late last night, with House members coming and going for last-minute special deals. It could mean that Pelosi still doesn’t have a sufficient number of ‘yes’ votes. But it could also mean that she is simply trying to maximise the votes for the bill in order to improve the very bad image the health care bill has in the eyes of the public. What a triumph it would be for her and Obama if not only the bill passed but if it also had won some Republican ‘yes’ votes – proof that the bill is totally bipartisan, as Obama keeps on claiming!

Of course, Pelosi spreads the word that she has enough votes. This helps to reassure fence-sitters and shaky ‘yes’-votes. But what about the Republicans? In public they say that they don’t think that the speaker has collected enough votes. I assume that they speak differently behind closed doors. At least, it would be very foolish to feel safe before the bill has actually been defeated. Maybe Republicans should admit that there is a true possibility that the bill passes, but by pointing out that the vote would be the result of murky inside-deals which so distort the representative function of House members that it is more the outcome of an oligarchic than of a democratic process.

But all hope is not lost, even if ObamaCare gets inacted. For one thing, it is not impossible that its passing and/or enactment will be ruled unconstitutional. And for the other, Americans are not nearly as easily fooled as some like to think. The French Cowboy believes that the voter backlash from this Democratic stunt could be so severe that a repeal of ObamaCare can be performed. Chances for that are slim, though. I’m sure that the bill will take care to hand out goodies to just enough voters (during the first years) to make them lose subsidies if the law is repealed. There is a reason why Democrats claim that, once passed, “everybody” will love ObamaCare. It is designed so that important voter blocs feel the freebies and the painful cost-cutting is distributed over small and electorally less relevant groups. For instance, every household may get a tax credit – an obvious benefit – while the cost-saving measure could be to make people pay an out-of-pocket fee if they want to have an MRI done. Ever heard of the PAC “People who are angry because they had to pay an out-of-pocket fee for getting a gastroscopy”? Well, and you never will because such interest groups are hard to get organised.

If a repeal is possible then it will be right after ObamaCare’s enactment, before voters have gotten used to the subsidies, or after ObamaCare has wreaked so much fiscal havoc that it’s either repeal or bankruptcy. The first scenario asks for a lot of discipline. The second entails heavy long-term damage. A defeat of ObamaCare in Congress would still be the best solution.

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