The Purpose Of Bipartisanship

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 10, 2009 at 17:41


Susan Collins thinks the goal of health care reform is to pass a bipartisan bill:

"On the Senate side, there is more outreach ... to Republicans than was the case during the early days of the stimulus," said Collins, who said she has heard frequently from the administration and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a key architect of the health care effort. "It's in everyone's interest to try to advance a bipartisan bill."

Actually, the goal of health care legislation is to reduce the cost of health care and increase access to health care. By contrast, the goal of bipartisanship is to get Democrats and Republicans to agree with each other. Those are different goals with no inherent connection.

Let's say, for example, that no changes whatsoever are made to the Senate HELP committee's health care bill before it is passed into law. Now, what will be the real-world impact of the health care bill in the following two scenarios?

  1. It is passed into law with every Republican voting for it.

  2. It is passed into law with no Republicans voting for it.
While I don't know what the exact impact will be in either scenario, I do know that the impact will be exactly the same in both scenarios. This is because legislation doesn't change based on the number of Republicans who vote for a bill. Rather, Republicans change legislation in order to be able to vote for it.

Bipartisanship has nothing to do with reducing the costs of health care or increasing access to health care. However, bipartisanship has a lot do with providing politicians political cover in the event that a piece of legislation fails to deliver on its ostensible purpose. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi explained this pretty well last year during the bailout:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling Democrats that she will not support President Bush's $700 billion bailout of the financial sector unless there is significant Republican support for the controversial plan.(...)

In the Senate, Republicans have also lined up to oppose their president's bill, which led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to worry that he may not have enough Republican votes to pass the package.

"We need Republican votes to help us," he said. "This is a Republican package and we need Republican votes."

The purpose of bipartisanship is so that, in the event that you pass legislation that is unpopular and / or does not end up working, then it is impossible to take all of the blame for it.

That is the purpose of bipartisanship in health care reform legislation. Not reducing costs or increasing access.

Chris Bowers :: The Purpose Of Bipartisanship

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why are the democrats so gunshy about healthcare (4.00 / 2)
legislation?  wouldn't it be politically beneficial for them to pass a 'partisan' bill?  

What makes you think this is about health care? (4.00 / 7)
The only issue I can recall recently where Democratic officials pressed for legislation on a partisan basis that would be politically beneficial is S-CHIP.

Point is, the question should be: why are Dems gun shy about partisan legislation that appears to be in their electoral interest?

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Because (0.00 / 0)
They don't believe it to be in their electoral interest, obviously.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

[ Parent ]
I think the issue is who is "they" (nt) (4.00 / 2)


Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
They're still listening to the DLC tools (4.00 / 5)

 You know, those elements who so skillfully got the inevitable Hillary Clinton elected.

 How can one argue with such expertise?  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


[ Parent ]
Wrong!! ... (4.00 / 5)
because it would mean they haven't seen the polls ... it is obvious they are afraid of losing their legalized bribes

[ Parent ]
Polls Schmolls (4.00 / 3)
There have always been issues out there where politicians go against the polls and have had no problems getting re-elected.

The signal has been that Democrats can get away with catering to business as long they cover their flank with abortion and minority rights and an occasional bone to unions.  Me, I'd happily trade EFCA in order to guarantee a legitimate public option for health care if I could find good faith bargaining partners.  If the center-left majority would just stand firm for once on an economic issue like health care and act as if deviance on that is less tolerable than deviance on other issues, then maybe the politicians would pay attention.  But some on the left seem way more interested in histrionics on culture war issues.

This is why I think one thing progressives should do is promise a primary challenge against whoever is the most liberal opponent of health care to demonstrate that we really do prioritize this issue.

The other thing I feel strongly about is that Democrats should pass a sufficiently liberal health care bill even if Republicans stick in some stupid gun rights amendment or Lieberman adds on a stupid torture photo amendment, because health care is just much more important.


Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both


[ Parent ]
yes, that is a more appropriate question... and one is still left wondering why... (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
This is why I have doubts about us being center-left nation... (0.00 / 0)
Why on earth would the dems be gunshy on legislation that everyone supports? Unless of course, they don't support it? If we ARE a center-left nation and we say we'll keep them in office if they pass x, y, and z, why won't they vote for it? In fact, they go out of their way not to. Which tells me something isn't right - either we aren't actually a center-left nation, or they are so far disconnected they shouldn't even be in office! Either way, we lose. Hmmm...

[ Parent ]
What WE support is irrelevant. (4.00 / 2)

  And there seems to be a growing awareness of that across the board.

  If this awareness congeals into a throw-the-bums-out mentality, guess which party's going to get clobbered in 2010.

  The Democrats seem to WANT a repeat of 1994.

   

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


[ Parent ]
'cos it involves taking a stand on something... (4.00 / 3)
And that means owning up to it and taking responsibility....

When have you ever known a Democrat to do that?

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
you seem to be reading something into the quote (4.00 / 1)
When I see "It's in everyone's interests to..."  I'd assume she's talking about senators' interests. What does that have to do with the "goal" of the bill?



New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.


They don't think it at all. (4.00 / 1)
They don't even think we think it.   They just don't care. Until progressive get a big stick, they can do nothing but make phone calls and "hope".  

It always seemed self evident to me (0.00 / 0)
that the reason for bipartisanship was to incorporate ideas of the minority into legislation, so that all the people and ideas are represented.

Like the stimulus: include tax cuts, so that the Republicans would support it and talk show radio hosts couldn't rant about how the administration was socialist.

Or the auto bailout: demand concessions from the unions, and make sure the government had a stake in the company, so the right wing couldn't rant about wasting money or the Democrats being in the pocket of unions.

I'm surprised the benefits aren't obvious to everyone by now.



is to beat those lying fascist fucks over the head (4.00 / 1)
by telling everyone that they're unreasonable fascist fucks.

it is a political ploy, and even the most mamby pamby lib dems i know in seattle know it should be a fig leaf glued over a brick to smash the fuckers with.

rmm.  

It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way


And the CYA element won't work (4.00 / 8)

 The voting public put DEMOCRATS in power because it wanted certain things done -- like health care.

 Whether or not the DEMOCRATS retain power after this cycle will correlate precisely with how much of that stuff they get done.

 If the Dem leadership is too dumb to see that, then one must question the justification for existence of the party.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


Well said (4.00 / 3)
My gut tells me they are making what they think are well-calculated political moves, but the fact is they won this cycle and last decisively because Americans overwhelmingly want a NEW DIRECTION.

If there was ever a time for bold, generational change, it is now.


[ Parent ]
An Argentine doctor once said, (4.00 / 3)
"An Argentine doctor once said, 'The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.' Yet our US Congress shall allow tens of thousands of Americans to die each year for lack of Universal Healthcare. The shame is on each and every member of Congress and each and every American for allowing this catastrophe to go on."-Matt Drayton

this is why Wyden is so off-base (4.00 / 6)
For some bizarre reason, he thinks major reform will be more "accepted" by people if it's passed with a large bipartisan vote.

No, it will be accepted by people if it succeeds in making health care available to more people at lower cost.

If we craft a worse bill for the sake of getting Republican votes, we gain nothing--we'll still be blamed if it doesn't work (and what the Republicans would prefer wouldn't work).

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.


Playing devil's advocate here (0.00 / 0)
Is it possible they are afraid to do anything bold that could lead to job losses at the health insurance companies?

The economy is in a fragile state and some of these health care companies are HUGE employers. Hell, UnitedHealth Group alone employs 75,000 people.

I would not be surprised that they take these scenarios into their political calculations.

Does not mean any of us have to like it - I sure don't. I am on the "do something BOLD and NOW" bandwagon but what we are likely to end up with is "ok everyone is covered but it still costs too much" type of bill.


devil's advocate (0.00 / 0)
Is it possible they are afraid to do anything bold that could lead to job losses at the health insurance companies?
maybe

[ Parent ]
Even more people employed (4.00 / 2)
by the car industry (if you look at the entire cluster of jobs associated with automobiles), and they weren't too worried about losing jobs there.

[ Parent ]
I disagree (0.00 / 0)
We would not have poured billions into GM if we were not worried about the loss of jobs. From an investor's perspective GM was a failed company that would have gone under without government intervention.

And the health care industry employs a LOT more people than the automobile industry.


[ Parent ]
That wasn't Congress (0.00 / 0)
correct me if I'm wrong-and I certainly could be-but I thought Congress voted not to direct any funds toward GM, but that the Administration stepped in, using funds from TARP.

No?


[ Parent ]
for the record (4.00 / 2)
Maine has one of the strongest single payer movements in the country. Her actions are in direct opposition to the known wishes of her constituents.

Grassley has a different bogus argument (4.00 / 4)
for a bipartisan health care bill. Supposedly we need to act in a bipartisan way because health care spending is such a huge portion of our total economy (17 percent).

Which is exactly my reason for wanting the best bill--not some crappy compromise Republicans can get behind.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.


Exactly (4.00 / 4)
The purpose of bipartisanship is so that, in the event that you pass legislation that is unpopular and / or does not end up working, then it is impossible to take all of the blame for it.

Thanks for making this point.



I really don't see how it can be any clearer than this: (4.00 / 4)
"legislation doesn't change based on the number of Republicans who vote for a bill. Rather, Republicans change legislation in order to be able to vote for it."

Why isn't anyone in the MSM talking about policy decisions from this perspective? And why doesn't anyone on the MSM investigate why a party that has such low polling numbers still continue to carry any semblance of clout in policy decision making?

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

ap-senators consider conrad screw over (4.00 / 1)
senators consider bi partisan screw over proposed by conrad. yuck
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/200...

Yeah, very clever by Conrad... (0.00 / 0)
It sounds so "reasonable" and "common sense"... This is going to be a very tough one to fight, 'cos it's such a wonderful cop-out for them.... we are going to have to fight this very hard...  I'm not sure if we will win... they can easily sell this as something meaningful when it's complete BS...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
rockerfller idea worse (0.00 / 0)
rockerfeller has more bs-a weak pub option w/private insurance regs
http://politics.theatlantic.co...

[ Parent ]
Got to hand it to Collins the literalist, (4.00 / 2)
she's calling the game as Obama requested: he preached the gospel of bipartisanship and tipped his hand right from the start that that would be his measure of success. There's her cover.

Along with the unnecessary vulnerability injected into what should have been abundant political capital comes the spectacle of an endless parade of crazies undermining the dem agenda in every way imaginable. There is no down side to Congressional crazy at this point -- they're banking that the path back to 2010 and 2012 is paved with grandstandability. And cover.  


Broder basically responds (0.00 / 0)
to your post Chris.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Aaargh.


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