Politics is a fickle game and political capital a currency in flux. The same Barack Obama who ascended to the Presidency amid adulation befitting a rock star six months ago is now desperate to regain momentum for the passage of his government-run healthcare plan. But with approval numbers lower than Jimmy Carter’s were at this same point in the Carter presidency, Obama finds himself at odds not only with Republicans but with members of his own party as well.
Obama has spent his political capital on a stimulus plan that didn’t stimulate, a takeover of GM that reduced that company’s profits by 22%, and a “cap and trade” global warming tax bill that angered the constituents of moderate House Democrats. As a result, Democrats are understandably hesitant to defend a healthcare plan which promises to add an immediate $239 billion to the trillions of dollars of federal deficit that Obama has racked up since taking office.
Another problem for Obama is that the House version of the healthcare plan, from which even liberals such as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) are distancing themselves from, is 1,018 pages long. The details contained in this immense piece of legislation are so varied that even the great and powerful Obama has had to concede that he doesn’t know what the bill does or does not contain.
That’s right. In response to a question over whether the new healthcare plan contained a provision that would outlaw privately purchased healthcare Obama responded: “You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you are talking about.”
So the president has spent weeks giving two or more speeches a day supporting a massive healthcare bill about which he knows neither the effects nor the costs. Fortunately, the Heritage Foundation knows . And they assure us that although “the House bill does not…outlaw private individual health insurance…outright, …it does effectively regulate it out of existence.”
House Democrats from conservative districts are also worried about the fact that the administration refuses to rule out whether or not abortions will be covered under the president’s healthcare plan. And although 20 Democrat House members sent Speaker Nancy Pelosi a letter on June 25th stating “[they could not] support any health care reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan,” to date the best response they’ve received is a pledge to pursue “compromise.” But Obama is slowly learning that “compromise” will not lessen the opposition of representatives bothered by what they describe as a “hidden mandate” to pay for abortion.
Obama’s favorite method of operation is to push through legislation quicker than it can be examined by lawmakers or the public, thus the slow pace at which things are moving amid these intraparty tensions clearly takes him off his game. And his recent efforts to speed things up only seem to backfire.
For example, he planned to lobby members of the House Energy and Commerce panel on Tuesday, July 21st, hoping to get them to “[finalize] the bill [by] going through it line-by-line and accepting or rejecting amendments.” But Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) threw a wrench in the works when he canceled the finalization and told Fox News he’d done so because more time was needed for “discussions with [committee] members.”
On the Senate side, things are not moving any faster. As a matter of fact, liberal leaning Olympia Snowe (R-Me) made it evident that Senators are as lost in the quagmire as their House counterparts when she told the AP: “[We’re] filling in the blank pages. [Of which] there are about a thousand." And it remains unclear whether Democrat leadership in the Senate shares Obama’s sense of urgency enough to “intervene in hopes of expediting [the] legislation.”
Ultimately, Senators and Representatives are slow to jump on the healthcare proposal bandwagon because their constituents, unlike Obama, understand the ramifications of this push for socialized medicine. Among such citizens, approval of Obama’s healthcare plan “has slid from 57 percent to 49 percent since April,” and disapproval “has risen from 29 percent to 44 percent” over that same period.
In an attempt to curtail this growing opposition to the healthcare proposal, Obama held a press conference on July 22nd in which he tried to scare citizens to his side by claiming our current healthcare system is the single “biggest contributor to our deficit.” But how can healthcare be the biggest contributor to our deficit when our deficit was only $1.3 trillion 6 months ago, but grew to a projected $7.1 trillion with Obama’s first budget?
It doesn’t take a forensic accountant to see that the biggest single contributor to our deficit is really a president who can’t quit spending the American people’s money, and who is now desperate to take over another 1/6 of our Gross Domestic Product which the U.S. healthcare system represents.
As usual, the American people are right for being suspicious of a government that is wrong.