After insisting for a year that failure was not an option, President Barack Obama is now acknowledging his health care overhaul may die in Congress.
His remarks at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Thursday night sounded contradictory at times, complicating congressional leaders' effort to revive health care legislation as Democrats hunger for guidance from the White House. Even while saying he still wanted to get the job done, Obama counseled going slow, and bowed to new political realities. Democrats no longer command a filibuster-proof Senate majority, and voters and lawmakers are far more concerned with jobs and the economy than with enacting sweeping and expensive changes to the health system.
Not exactly bold leadership on the issue.
Sweeping health legislation to extend medical coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans passed both chambers of Congress last year and was on the verge of completion before Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in a Massachusetts special U.S. Senate election last month. Brown was sworn in Thursday, giving Republicans 41 votes, enough to block the initiatives of the Democratic majority.
Now the health legislation hangs in limbo. Lawmakers are looking to Obama for a path forward, but he has not publicly offered specifics. His signals have been mixed. At the DNC event he said Republicans should be part of the process — something they've shown little interest in and that would doubtlessly drag out a legislative effort that many rank-and-file Democrats want to end quickly. The health care bill has become unpopular with the public and a political drag for lawmakers.
As usual he's not tipping his hand, again so as to avoid catching the blame:
"And it may be that ... if Congress decides we're not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not," the president said. "And that's how democracy works. There will be elections coming up and they'll be able to make a determination and register their concerns one way or the other during election time."
Don't let the moment pass, but be deliberate. Move forward to a vote while at the same time have meetings, listen to the Republicans' ideas (sic), take your time, make a decision.
Remember when this was going to be done by Christmas?
I was a proponent some time ago of letting HCR pass away, but it should have been done so that its death was clearly the fault of the GOP. Responsibility for the failure -- whether the inept Dems could make it so, or not -- belongs squarely at their feet.
But once again the president has managed to kowtow to the intransigent minority and piss off his base while looking weak, all at the same time. That's an award-winning recipe for failure.