Over at Redstate, Erick Erickson makes an impassioned plea for Republican Senators to stop Obamacare in its tracks. Erickson essentially argues that unused parliamentary devices could and should be used by Republicans to oppose Obamacare in the Senate.
It’s a terrific post and I couldn’t agree more with Erickson’s reckoning of the stakes involved. I asked a GOP Senate source to comment on Erickson’s post. He has forwarded the following message with embedded links:
First, I’d point to this transcript from Rush Limbaugh’s show on Friday where he discusses the dumb things Democrats are saying and a bit about Republican strategy. Here’s what Rush said:
“Now, I talked to Senator McConnell about the purpose of the amendments. He said we’re trying to flush out with these amendments just who it is that really we have to focus on here. The two names that he mentioned were Ben Nelson and Jim Webb in Virginia because there’s something that Webb is not going along with the Democrats on, I forget specifically what it is. My point in mentioning all of it is that the Republicans in the Senate are using parliamentary procedures, they are offering all these amendments, not to make the bill better but to flush out and to find out who it is that they really need to work with to stop this. That is their objective to stop it.”
We all share the same goal, as Sen. McConnell has said many times, of stopping this awful bill and starting over. There have been regular meetings about health care and strategy among Republicans going back to very early in the year. The current floor strategy is something that all Republican senators have agreed on, from Sen. DeMint to Sen. Coburn to Sen. Enzi to Sen. Snowe. All ideas are considered in these meetings, and many are put into play. It’s not so much Sen. McConnell’s strategy, as it is everyone’s.
That said, of course, every senator retains the right to object to unanimous consent requests if they don’t want go along with something.
There are a couple reasons worth mentioning why I think you haven’t seen much of what some people are calling for. First, the Democrats are desperate to talk about anything other than the problems with their bills, so obvious Republican shenanigans would be a godsend for them. Dick Durbin loves nothing more than going to the floor to complain about process and obstructionism. Democrats would much rather talk about how awful Republicans are than the merits of their legislation.
The other reason is, I’d argue, that I think our strategy is having an effect. Since these bills debuted, Republicans have spoken almost nonstop about how the bills cut Medicare, raise taxes, increase premiums, and increase the debt. That CNN poll from Thursday is telling. Not only do 61% oppose the bill, but 79% say it will increase the defict and 85% say it will raise taxes. Over and over we see polls from Gallup, Bloomberg, and others showing Americans do not believe these bills will help them, or will even make things worse.
We also got a story this week about Webb refusing to say where he was on this bill. He’s voted with Republicans several times on our amendments. And senators like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu continue to be very nervous about this bill.
The longer this bill is on the floor being debated on the merits (or lack of them) the fewer people support it, and the more Democrats have to answer for how bad it is. (Even Norah O’Donnell called it a “crappy” bill on MSNBC the other day.) With only 40 votes, Republicans need public disgust to help push a few Democrats (or even just one) into the ‘no’ camp, and that gets easier when we continue to point to the real-life effects of this bill and can hold up things like the CMS reports showing the bills will increase costs. But if we lose focus, then Harry Reid gets to make a very easy argument to his caucus that they should vote to close off debate because the GOP is just screwing around and it diminishes our chances of getting a Democrat to be able to say that the bill is just too bad to vote for.
We obviously appreciate that there’s apprehension over this bill and disagreement about strategies to combat it, but I think we’re making real headway, and it’s not as if the tools mentioned by others aren’t still available to us as they’re needed.
Can spectacle be helpful? Certainly, but at the right time. But for now it appears that a steady stream of news reports about 2,000 page bills that raise costs, cut Medicare, and violate all the president’s promises are swaying public opinion. Why jeopardize that right now?
If I read this correctly, Erickson’s recommended parliamentary techniques remain a last resort.