Health care reform is necessary, and House Democrats should vote for it because it’s best for the nation.
They should also remember the political lessons of history. To paraphrase Mark Twain, history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme. As the White House and the House Democratic leadership try to line up 216 votes to pass health care reform — and as Republicans, aided by the National Association of Manufacturers and abetted by fierce partisans like Newt Gingrich, try to kill it – I can’t help thinking back to 1994 when the lineup was much the same.
I was serving in the Clinton administration at the time. In the first months of 1993 it looked as if Clinton’s health care proposal would sail through Congress. But the process dragged on and by 1994 it bogged down. We knew health care was imperiled but none of us knew that failure to pass health care would doom much of the rest of Clinton’s agenda and wrest control of Congress out of the hands of the Democrats. In retrospect, it’s clear Republicans did know.
On February 5, 1994, the National Association of Manufacturers passed a resolution declaring its opposition to the Clinton plan. Not long after that, Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who was managing the health care bill for the House, approached the senior House Republican on the bill to seek a compromise. According to Dingell, the response was: “There’s no way you’re going to get a single vote on this [Republican] side of the aisle. You will not only not get a vote here, but we’ve been instructed that if we participate in that undertaking at all, those of us who do will lose our seniority and will not be ranking minority members within the Republican Party.”
In early March, 1994, Senate Republicans invited Newt Gingrich, then House minority leader, to caucus with them about health care. Gingrich warned against compromise, a view echoed by Senator Phil Gramm. A few months later, at a Republican meeting in Boston, Bob Dole, then Senate minority leader, promised to “filibuster and kill” any health care bill with an employer mandate.
By then Gingrich had united House Republicans against passage of health reform and told the New York Times he wanted “to use the issue as a springboard to win Republican control of the House.” Gingrich predicted Republicans would pick up thirty-four House seats in the November elections and half a dozen disaffected Democrats would switch parties to give Republicans control. (more…)
Bill Moyers has a great show last night. His first guest was Thomas Frank. Frank’s last two books should be required reading for the whole country. They remind us of how bad the GOP really is. Their hatred of government has caused by far more problems than it solves.
Bill Moyers talks to Thomas Frank about whether the Republicans are headed for some victories this coming election due to our collective memory loss about how horrid the Republicans are at governing, sadly enabled by the Democratic leadership which looks clueless as how to counter it all too often. From Moyers’ report:
Will Rogers once said, “The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.” But as Democrats face what many believe will be a tough mid-term election, historian Thomas Frank argues that it might just be the other way around for incumbent Democrats. The Republican Party, which lost Congress and the White House in the last four years, may be poised for a comeback. A comeback Frank believes is only possible because Americans have forgotten what their country looked like under conservative rule, “That’s the disease of our time…that sort of instant forgetting.”
On BILL MOYERS JOURNAL, Frank looks into the not-so-distant past to describe what America looked like before the time of President Obama, focusing on the last ten years, which he’s called “A Low, Dishonest Decade” in a recent column for the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Frank believes that many of the crises that afflicted America during the oughts should be laid at the feet of the conservative movement. Frank’s list is long: the inadequate response to Katrina; the Enron, Abramoff and Madoff scandals; the mismanaged Iraqi reconstruction; two mismanaged and unpopular wars; and the 2008 financial disaster. Frank argues that it can all be traced back to an intentional dismantling of the government’s oversight infrastructure, driven by a belief that government is always bad: “This is why the wreckage that I’ve described can’t be separated from the conservative ideology and the conservative movement, generally: Because of their hatred of big government and their disdain and contempt for the federal workforce.” But according to Frank, the financial disaster has wiped clean Americans’ memories. They are mad at the bankers and mad about the economy, and conservatives may ride a wave of populist outrage back into power.
BILL MOYERS: How is it that the people who are responsible for the mess that Obama inherited are getting away with demonizing him when he’s only had less than a year to clean it up. Let me show you just a sample of commentators railing against the President.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: President Obama and the Democrats are destroying the US economy. They are purposefully doing it, I believe.
GLENN BECK: This is a well-thought out plan to collapse the economy as we know it.
JONATHAN HOENIG: The president has, I think if you listen to what he says, a hatred for capitalism. Where do jobs come from? They don’t come from the government, they come from the profit seeking self-interest, from what I hear and see, the President never misses an opportunity to smear and [no audio] slap!
RUSH LIMBAUGH: This guy is a coward. He does not have the gonads or the spine to even stand up and accept what he’s doing! All of this is his doing. He cannot even probably say, you should like this — you may not like this, but I’m telling you it’s the best thing for you, it’s the best thing for me. No! He knows it’s a disaster, he has to slough this off, on his previous– or his predecessor, the previous administration.
SEAN HANNITY: It’s his stimulus. It’s his record deficit spending. He quadrupled the debt in a year. You know, how many more are the Democrats going to say, “Well, it’s George Bush’s fault”? This is Obama’s economy now.
BILL MOYERS: What goes through your mind as a historian when you watch that?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, that is America for you. I mean, that is the, sort of the demented logic of our politics. Is that now– Obama’s been President for a year. And he will come before the public in the fall, you know, having to defend all of these terrible things. That’s how our politics works in this country.
BILL MOYERS: But you called it demented. I mean, you know, demented means crazy, mad. Mad and crazy enough to cause us to forget the world before Obama?
THOMAS FRANK: I’ll give you an example what I mean. So, I was on a radio show the other day with a tea party leader, you know, one of these protest leaders. And he seemed like a good guy. But what he did say that struck me was he said he was really against monopoly, you know? And we’re laboring under all these monopolies, all these concentrated powers here in America. And what we need to do is get back to free markets. And then we can do away with that. And it was mind-blowing.
Because if you look back any further than the Obama Administration, since, I mean, 1980 in this country, we have been in the grip of, you know, of this pursuit of ever-purer free markets. That’s what American politics has been about. That’s what has delivered this, you know, the awful circumstances that we find ourselves in today. And to think that that’s what’s missing, that’s what we need to get back to, is–
BILL MOYERS: That’s more than nostalgia. What is that?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, that’s the disease of our time. You know, that sort of instant forgetting.
Don’t tell me that there is a ton of difference between Republicans and Democrats when stuff like this happens. The FISA bill is a large piece of corporate lovin’. The Democratic leadership in the House planned this. They crafted this so that they would vote on Friday and that the blow back would happen over a weekend. They were hoping that everything would be almost back to normal by Monday. …And they are looking out for who? The American people not being served by Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, today. This is a terrible day for the democratic party. BTW, where is Barack Obama?
Donate NOW to help stop this craziness. I have given, I hope that you will give also because this has to stop.
Update: I thought that TCR would have some good information and I was right:
Looking over the final roll call, most House Dems voted against the measure, while House Republicans were nearly unanimous in their support. Specifically, among Dems, 128 voted against it, while 105 voted for it. Among Republicans, 188 voted for it, and just one (Illinois’ Tim Johnson, whose work I’m not especially familiar with, was the lone GOP lawmaker to break ranks.)
Plenty of Dems spoke out forcefully against the bill, but the one quote that stands out most for me came before the debate began. Sen. Chris Bond (R-Mo.), who negotiated with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on the legislation, told the NYT, “I think the White House got a better deal than they even they had hoped to get.”
The House today overwhelmingly approved a sweeping new surveillance law that effectively would shield telecommunications companies from privacy lawsuits for cooperating with the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
Ending a year-long battle with President Bush, the House approved, 293 to 129, a re-write of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that extends the government’s ability to eavesdrop on espionage and terrorism suspects while providing a legal escape hatch for AT&T, Verizon Communications and other telecommunication firms. The companies face more than 40 lawsuits that allege they violated customers’ privacy rights by helping the government conduct a warrantless spying program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Before the vote, President Bush today lauded Congress for reaching agreement on the legislation, saying it was vital to help thwart new terrorist attacks. (more…)