Political Hay

Repeal Appeal

Senate Democrats seal their fate for 2012 by voting against repeal of Obamacare.

By 2.4.11

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On Wednesday, in a 47-51 party line vote -- with Senators Lieberman (CT) and Warner (VA) not voting -- Senate Republicans followed their House colleagues in coming through with their promise to get a vote on repealing Obamacare.

Despite the rhetoric of the left, the vote was far more than symbolic as it forced some key vulnerable Democrats, including Claire McCaskill (MO) and Ben Nelson (NE), to show whether they stood with the citizens of their states or with the arm-twisting of Harry Reid and Barack Obama. In a vote in August, 71% of those Missourians who cast ballots voted to prohibit the government from requiring that a person purchase health insurance, the lynchpin of Obamacare's takeover of the American health insurance system. McCaskill gave those 71% of voters the finger and, I predict, sealed her fate in the 2012 elections, as did Ben Nelson whose state is 2-to-1 against Obamacare.

"Conservative" Democrat Joe Manchin (WV) also voted with the Democrats to preserve Obamacare, proving right his Republican challenger in the 2010 Senate race who said that Manchin's late-in-the-race conversion to being against Obamacare was a lie and that his earlier support of Obamacare represented who Manchin really is. A Rasmussen Reports poll of West Virginia likely voters in August, 2010 showed 69% of the state opposed to Obamacare, with 80% of those "strongly opposed" and almost twice as many supporting the state suing to block the law's health insurance mandate as opposing such a lawsuit. &%^$! the people, says Manchin!

In addition to hurting his own re-election chances (he's up in 2012 because his election was to fill Robert Byrd's unexpired term), it's also good ammunition for Republicans to use against every Democrat in 2012. Arguments along the lines of "see, you can't trust a word they say" and "they don't care what you want, only what Harry Reid wants" won't help Democrats retain their 23 current Senate seats up for grabs in the next election.

Democrats seem to believe that the 2010 elections were not about Obamacare -- and, by extension, that the 2012 elections won't be either. Although it wasn't the only issue -- government spending is also top-of-mind for many voters, even more so now than going into the last elections -- it was a critical issue; Democrats are making a huge error in thinking that repeal of Obamacare is just something Republicans need to "get out of their system really quickly," as Harry Reid put it.

THE RESULTS OF WEDNESDAY's vote were not surprising, even if many of us thought there was a chance that one or two Democrats might vote for repeal just to save their own electoral hides. What also isn't surprising is the rhetoric from the left and its tools in the press, as exemplified by Washington Post writer Stephen Stromberg who asks, "Did Republicans overpromise on health bill repeal?"

Right on cue, here's what passes for analysis from the Post: "House Speaker John Boehner didn't exactly guarantee outright repeal in November, but he and others in his party came pretty close." Let me summarize for you, Stephen: Neither Boehner nor others guaranteed repeal. You know what they say about "close," and in what situations it counts.

Perhaps compared to his fellow travelers at Reuters, whose article Stromberg links to, he is a model of accuracy. After all, Reuters' headline was "Boehner vows to repeal Obama healthcare reforms" even while the quote from Boehner says "we have to do everything we can to try [emphasis mine] to repeal this bill and replace it..." And by the way, Stephen, Boehner did get the repeal vote through the House -- with the support of several Democrats and without losing a single Republican.

Stromberg's assessment that Republicans could be erring by "setting expectations high" shows a complete lack of understanding of the impact of the votes. As Jim DeMint (R-SC) put it earlier this week, "Well, we need to get everyone on record so Americans and the voters in 2012 will know where their senators stand on it." And now we know.

And as if Stromberg hadn't already displayed enough cluelessness, he closes his article with this:

It could be easy enough to blame everything on Obama and the Democratic Senate. Anti-Obama animus could well buoy the movement into 2012. And conservatives are usually more understanding than liberals when their politicians don't follow through as spectacularly as they'd hoped.

Again, Mr. Stromberg, let me make this simple for you: First, it will be easy to blame Obama and the Democratic Senate because given the issues that Americans are focused on now, it's extremely likely that a lack of progress will be their fault. Second, the animus is against the health care takeover and the reprehensible process by which it was shoved down our throats; it is not specifically anti-Obama, as shown by his personal approval ratings being much higher than Congress' ratings or Obamacare's ratings. And third, conservative politicians have -- perhaps for the first time in a generation -- something to be proud of. They didn't promise to repeal Obamacare, but they promised to try. And they'll keep doing everything they can to weaken and defeat the unconstitutional law -- as promised -- with each and every successful hack at Obamacare representing a small but spectacular success.

There's one way in which Republicans, including particularly the usual suspect, Lindsey Graham (SC), may be responsible for the GOP's not getting one Democrat vote: Graham, along with Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, offered a well-intentioned but badly timed measure to allow a state opt-out from Obamacare, giving those Democrats wiggle-room to claim they're going to support "making it better," along the lines of President Obama's insincere plea during his State of the Union Address: "If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you."

As usual, Graham's fellow South Carolinian, Senator DeMint, had it right when he said, "But the thing I don't want to do right now is to go in try and fix (Obamacare)... to go back and try to fix pieces of it, recognizing that it's built on a government foundation, a foundation of government health care, we don't want to fix pieces of it. What we want to do is repeal the whole thing, and then step by step improve the system we have now, which is the best health care system in the world. And so we're not only trying to protect our health care system but our way of life, and hopefully, constitutional limits when this whole thing is over."

Despite Graham's in-character unwitting usefulness to the left, it remains unlikely that Harry Reid would have allowed more than one or two Democrats to vote for repeal. The modicum of cover that Graham and Barrasso gave those Democrats was unnecessary an won't keep the other shoe from dropping on Senate Dems in 2012.

If you want to understand the implication of the Republican assault on Obamacare (and of the Democrats' defense of it), don't bother with the lamestream media. Instead, look at betting on 2012 Senate control. It's trading around 70% for the Republicans to win back control, the all-time high for that bet and up 15% from the November elections.

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About the Author
Ross Kaminsky is a self-employed trader and investor and is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute. He is the host of The Ross Kaminsky Show on Denver's NewsRadio 850 KOA on Saturday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM. You can reach Ross by e-mail at rossputin(at)rossputin(dot)com.