Back in 2005, the then-majority Republicans were the ones who insisted that filibusters were obstructing the will of the people and that the Senate had a democratic obligation to do an “up or down vote”.
Today, the Republicans are the minority and they have obstructed health care desperately needed by Americans for no reason other than their political ambition to take down President Obama – this is an explicit goal, with Rush Limbaugh publically saying he hopes “the President will fail” and GOP Senator DeMint calling health care “Obama’s Waterloo“. Their focus is solely on their political advantage – whereas the Democrats are trying to solve a problem – one that’s gotten even worse as reform has been delayed in futile attempts at “bipartisanship” (defined by Republicans as: “do it our way. And we still won’t vote for it.”)
The political opposition does have a right – and a duty – to oppose legislation that they disagree with. But this excuse is flimsy when it comes to health care reform because so many Republican ideas have already been incorporated already.
Despite the truly bipartisan nature of the bills under consideration, the GOP spin is that health reform is a “socialist government takeover” of health care shaped by “secret back room deals”. It’s no such thing, and you can see for yourself – the President’s proposal is posted online for all to see. The health care summit this Thursday will be televised live and streamed online for the public to see as well.
The other acceptable rationale for obstruction by the minority would be if the legislation was truly something that the American public did not want. Only then would the minority be able to argue that they are representing the true democratic will of the people – and that’s an important function of our system, one reason why (unlike the Repuublicans back in 2005) the Democrats are only interested in filibuster reform, not abolishing it outright.
However, in this case the public is overwhelmingly in favor of some solution to health care and the Republican minority, in threatening filibusters to obstruct the bill, is standing against the democratic will:
A batch of state polls by the non-partisan Research 2000 shows that in multiple states represented by key Dem Senators who will have to decide whether to support reconciliation, the public option polls far better than the Senate bill does, often by lopsided margins.
Here’s a rundown, sent over by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which commissioned the polls:
* In Nevada, only 34% support the Senate bill, while 56% support the public option.
* In Illinois, only 37% support the Senate bill, while 68% support the public option.
* In Washington State, only 38% support the Senate bill, while 65% support the public option.
* In Missouri, only 33% support the Senate bill, while 57% support the public option.
* In Virginia, only 36% support the Senate bill, while 61% support the public option.
* In Iowa, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.
*In Minnesota, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.
* In Colorado, only 32% support the Senate bill, while 58% support the public option.
The full poll on all the states, with partisan breakdowns and other questions, is online “>right here.
Research 2000 is a widely-respected polling outfit and their methodology is rock solid – the company’s president explained their methodology in detail in response to conservative outrage after their now-infamous poll about self-identified Republican beliefs. The lack of good messaging from Obama’s conflicted White House staff has hurt the image of the bill in the public eye, but polls devoted to specific issues of health reform (which are addressed in the legislation) show strong majorities in support of the basic concepts. The anti-incumbent mood out there is as much a function of the wasted time and lack of result than anything else.
The GOP still has a chance this Thursday to be a part of the solution. Health reform does indeed deserve an up-or-down vote on the merits. The democrats seem to have found their spine and are explicitly saying in advance of the summit that if the Republicans filibuster health reform anyway, then they will proceed with reconciliation to get the job done without GOP support. And the voters will reward them in November for it.