Do We Just Need Congressional Consensus?
“We need to get a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support,” says Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). “If the Democrats choose to shut out Republicans and moderate Democrats, their plan will fail because the American people will have no confidence in it.”
It's worth noting that the American people have no confidence in moderate Democrats or Republicans. The graph atop this post comes from the latest WSJ-NBC poll. A slight plurality of the American people don't approve of the job Barack Obama is doing on health care. A huge majority of American people don't approve of the job Republicans are doing on health care. It's not as if Americans have surveyed this effort and decided the problem is that the totally irresponsible Republican Party hasn't been sufficiently consulted.
What Enzi is actually saying, I imagine, is that a bill that appears to achieve consensus in the Senate will inspire confidence in the country. But there's not much evidence of that. The American people are being scared off of health-care reform because the opposition is convincing people of all sorts of lies about the bill. If eight more Republican senators were attached to this legislation but talk radio and tea parties and Freedom Works and the rest of the controversy engine remained steadfastly opposed -- and they would -- there would be little difference in the confidence level of the American people.
Enzi -- like the administration, and like many of his colleagues -- overestimates the cues people take from congressional process. Most Americans don't know much of anything about the bills moving through committee, or the Gang of Six process. They're not in the street demanding that the White House let the Finance Committee finish its work rather than go with the House bill. Rather, they look at the TV, hear controversies about all sorts of crazy things, see people screaming at each other in town halls, and assume they can't trust anything that emerges from this chaos.
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