Obama's approval numbers would jump 10 points if Americans knew he was fully in charge. A tactical move of introducing his own plan would also stir more Republicans to become active for reform in critical areas. Right now the president's biggest problem is with congressional Democrats, who are split and searching for a way out of the medical wilderness.
In short, the president, Congress and the public are choking on all this, and choking is not covered by the legislation.
When I served as Senate Republican leader, I recall President Ronald Reagan telling me after he'd sent a bill that I would introduce that he wanted it all -- but that if I could get 70 to 80 percent, to run with it, and he would try to get the rest later. Neither Reagan nor Obama has been considered a master of Congress, but both are known for their great popularity and for understanding the art of reaching for more than they could reasonably expect. Now, consider this: Members of Congress want to keep their jobs. They support their president, but they also want to be employed, with a good health plan (like the one they enjoy now), after this president or even the next has come and gone. So votes on this issue are not simply partisan. They are also about survival. Most lawmakers, Republican or Democratic, will think long and hard before casting this vote -- to avoid backing into a buzz saw.
Once the president has staked out his position, which will provide room for amendments, the debate will narrow, and bipartisan bargaining and other political maneuvering can begin.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
From yesterday's Washington Post: