Into the Teeth of Public Opinion

At this moment, the House of Representatives has begun to debate Pelosicare. Unexpectedly, the Democrats’ leadership is struggling to find the 218 votes needed for passage. The immediate hurdle is abortion. The Democrats’ House bill provides for federal funding of abortions, and the pro-life movement has mobilized in support of the Stupak Amendment, which would remove abortion funding from the bill. Latest word is that Nancy Pelosi has been forced to permit a vote on the amendment some time today. We’ll see.
Our assumption has always been that the House Democratic leadership can pass anything they want, discipline in that body being what it is, and that the real chance of stopping a government takeover of health care is in the Senate. I still think that’s probably true, but the rebellion of House Democrats is heartening. As NRCC spokesman Ken Spain put it, “If this bill is the political winner Nancy Pelosi claims it is, then why are Democrats fighting over who gets to vote against it?”
That is, indeed, the rub. The Democrats are trying to jam a deeply unpopular measure down the throats of the American people. In the Rasmussen survey, voters oppose the Democrats’ plan 54-42 percent. Equally significant is this CNN/Opinion Research survey, which finds that respondents oppose “Barack Obama’s plan to reform health care” by 53-45 percent. Even more striking is this breakdown: only 26 percent want Congress to pass the existing legislation with “only minor changes.” A whopping 72 percent want Congress to start over, to make major changes in the existing bills, or to abandon the entire project.
It’s worth remembering that the Democrats’ original plan was to slip their health care takeover past the voters before anyone noticed. They intended to pass some version of the bill through both the House and Senate and have it signed by President Obama before the August recess. Only a suddenly-informed and aroused public forced a delay in that schedule. Since then, public opposition to the Democrats’ plan has only deepened.
It seems obvious that a fundamental restructuring of something as important as the nation’s health care system–a restructuring, in this case, that would irrevocably alter the relationship between citizen and state–should not be undertaken without public consensus in support of the measure. In the case of Pelosicare, not only is there no public consensus in favor of the measure, it flies in the face of broad and deep public opposition and even anger.
That the Democrats are willing to ram through their radical proposal under these circumstances is a tribute either to their tenacity or their foolhardiness. Time will tell which.
UPDATE: With commendable thoroughness, the Republicans have diagrammed the insanity that is Pelosicare. This chart will be featured in today’s House debate; click to enlarge:
JEC_Health_Chart_11-7-09.jpg

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