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Harry Reid's results


Yglesias makes the case for Harry Reid:

[L]iberals have rarely found themselves hailing Reid’s leadership. But the fact of the matter is that there’s almost no precedent for the legislative mission he’s been asked to accomplish of turning 59 Democrats, one loosely Democrat-aligned Independent, and two slightly moderate Republicans into 60 votes for a package that’s simultaneously a dramatic expansion of the welfare state and a measure that reduces both short- and long-term deficits.

On top of the intrinsically difficult nature of the task, he’s facing a really ugly political situation back home. Because Beltway mores dictate that you can never hold a member of congress morally culpable for actions undertaken in the name of raw politically self-interest, it must have been very tempting for Reid to get distracted. But he’s stayed on point and focused, dealt with the timid members of his caucus, dealt with the ignorant members of his caucus, dealt with the egomaniacal members of his caucus, and dealt with the all-too-typical Senatorial combination of policy ignorance, egomania, and political cowardice among some members. For his troubles it looks like we’re going to get a bill that liberals feel churlish about at best. But it’s really an extraordinary achievement.

People often compare Reid to Pelosi, and not favorably. But Pelosi got 50.5 percent of her chamber to vote for health-care reform. Reid looks like he'll get 60 percent. That's not to make the reverse comparison, as Reid made compromises that Pelosi didn't make. But it is to say that you can lead your chamber in a different way when you have 40 Democratic votes you can lose, as opposed to being able to lose zero votes, and given Lieberman's behavior, having to pick up one or two from the other side.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Harry Hamburg.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 16, 2009; 11:28 AM ET
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Sure. And for a skinny guy, he's not so wrinkled. 59-41, and he still has a hard time getting the job done? Pathetic.

Posted by: ostap666 | December 16, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Oh joy, Reid "achieved" (maybe, there's a long way to go yet) a giant Christmas present for the insurance industry at our expense. I'm so overawed by this colossal accomplishment. About as overawed as I am by your credibility on health care reform.

Posted by: labonnes | December 16, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Talk about lowering the bar...

Posted by: adamiani | December 16, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Harry is to be congratulated if he really pulls this off, notwithstanding the whining from the ever more self-marginalized faux-progressive peanut section.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | December 16, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

labonnes: Why are you in support of killing over 40 Americans every single day because they can't afford to buy insurance?

Posted by: cassander | December 16, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

People want affordability. Not "welfare." Elite liberals don't seem prepared to see the majority of Americans, middle class, working class and poor, as anything other than loser supplicants awaiting the generousity of the state. You are making the Right Wings arguments for them.

How does what is currently proposed impact micro business owners like myself and my husband? We now, because of steady, non-stop increases in premium cost over the last decade, pay $20,000 a year for a high deductible individual plan (we also cover the cost of an individual plan for our one full time employee). That the cost of this plan will continue to rise is a given. That our income can rise to accomodate those inevitable increases is not. We want genuinely affordable options from this reform -- that will substantially reduce this fixed cost and free up money for other important purposes. Nothing in the plan as it now is appears likely to change our situation and address this concern. Rather, it seems designed to keep us locked into the same burden, and worse, for years to come. (Will we be taxed because our health care costs are "gold-plated" -- even if our coverage is not? What types of coverage has to be eliminate to avoid the tax? We don't get vision, dental, mental health coverage as it is. Our high deductible means that preventive and routine costs are paid by us, not the insurer.)

What about freelancers and contract workers (an increasingly large part of the work force)? Many of these workers have no health insurance because fluctuations in income make both private and public options impossible. High earning periods disqualify them from government programs and subsidies, while low earning periods make it difficult to consistently meet the high premium cost of private insurance. There doesn't appear to be anything proposed that will change that.

Medicaid and subsidies, and the constant begging before bureaucrats to qualify for them that they entail, are demeaning. And believe me, I am not the only American, on the Right or Left, other than the beltway's elite wonks, who will see them that way. As such, they are a political disaster.

Mandates, that deny consumers the right to make purchasing decisions based on affordability, personal budgeting needs and financeial priorities and goals, and instead force them to purchase based on the threat of fines and worst, are enraging and -- without greatly expanded and improved coverage options -- an even larger political disaster. Acceptable only if genuinely broad, cost-efficient, cost savings options are available. Which, appears to be unlikely.

Average Americans aren't, as so many beltway commentators seem to be doing, watching to see if the Senate's actions solve any of the players' political problems. We're watching to see how the proposed policies will affect our lives and improve our prospects of acquiring or keeping, without being ripped off and/or humiliated, decent, affordable access to health care.

Posted by: mschumacher1 | December 16, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Man, I am getting more and more soured by the group of liberals that can't stop whining about this bill. Major reform of the healthcare industry has been a policy objective of every Democratic president and Congress for almost a century. With a few very notable exceptions, nobody pulls it off. This is not a bill I'm happy with, but nobody has made a credible case that we could have done better. The bill looks like it may pass at this point (but I'm not holding my breath just yet) and though it's not a bill I particularly like, it does some good and is a monumental achievement given the legislators involved.

Posted by: MosBen | December 16, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I completely disagree with this 'free pass' to Sen. Reid. If at all there is one 'villain'; it is he.

Just look at HCR. Fact of the matter is he did not have PO votes, why did he add that to the Sen. Baucus bill? Then next compromise was even more on the Left than the original PO! Who's mistakes are these? It is Sen. Reid who could have avoided these foolish steps in the first place. Neither he would have falsely increased hopes of Liberals nor would have lost the time.

It is really very incapable handling by Sen. Reid here. Knowing the 'calculus' of the Chamber and then accordingly 'guide' bills is the quintessentially job of the Chamber Leadership. Sen. Reid fails miserably in that. Instead of saving time and getting right results, he indulged in cheap political maneuvering (how did he dare to declare PO single handedly without anybody on the board? Do you remember his Press Conf.? He was alone!) for himself and even induced Sen. Lieberman to throw the mud all over the place....

Matt - he keeps on getting things wrong.

Posted by: umesh409 | December 16, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

MosBen has it exactly right. Democratic supporters are like children who live in a bubble, where if you win an election, that decides the future.

Democrats had better pull together and learn how this system operates. It isn't by whining -- it is by taking ground, and then making new strategy.

Just about the time George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security, I predicted that the Democrats would resurge -- not because they deserved it, but because the Republicans had crashed and burned intellectually. But this resurgence may not be politically sustainable. The Democrats never had an intellectual vision to begin with, and they barely work as a team. Democratic voters want everything done right away, and they tend to eat their own.

The Republicans are much better at acting as a team. The only thing the Democrats have going for them is that Republican economic ideology is still clinging to Reagan the Unreal, and the moderate Republicans haven't figured-out what to do about their own wingers in the Palin epidemic. But these will pass, and there is not much more time left until they figure out how to reorganize.

Democrats who care, had better LEARN this bill after it is passed, learn it inside-out: And then relate its lackings, to the need for a public option -- in preparation for the next big election push.

Democrats must realize that they have to raise the level of knowledge, AND ALSO situate themselves in a long-term rhetorical and political battle to change the public discourse. It is time to stay flexible and keep pushing on all cylinders.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | December 16, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love the brain-dead shills who think we all need to pull together on passing the Republicans' policies for them, so they don't have to risk pissing off the teabaggers by doing it themselves. I doubt you have any knowledge at all of what's actually in what's now left of the Senate bill. Even the much-ballyhooed insurance "reforms" have been gutted of all real content. You'll get your "reward" in November 2010, not from progressives but from millions of ordinary voters who know they've been had.

Posted by: labonnes | December 16, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, I love you, but you are way wrong on this. The problem is the lens you are viewing this through, which is based on the notion that the senate and beltway have immutable laws that bind Harry's hands. I don't dispute the reality of tradition or the power exerted by beltway CW. But Harry always had the option to go bigger, to go beyond. First, he could have forcefully and repeatedly taken his case to the public. (As could have Obama, who's failure to engage in a sustained way may have literally caused fatal damage to his presidency.) The public is confused and has had misinformation thrown at if for months. Our side countered these half-truths and lies sporadically, with unwarranted politeness, and without any sustained strategy.

His other option has always been reconciliation. A man who's care for the public was stronger than his concern for the delicate sensibilities of fragile Senators (for who's egos we all must be willing to sacrifice) would have used the tools he had to get the job done. (And let's not leave out the need to protect Insurance company and related profits.) Reid is like the string of failed Generals that Lincoln had to contend with before Grant. Only Lincoln had the sense and the courage to know that a half-hearted effort wasn't going to cut it. He kept trying. Not our team.

No, Harry put his pals ahead of us. He made it clear that their petty power plays were more important that the needs of the country. Yes, he'll shed a few tears of regret, but President Lieberman had to be placated, and, though (ever see Shrek?) the public would suffer, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

Posted by: Melinochis | December 16, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

explain to me again why the expansion of the welfare state is a good thing Ezra?

And as many on here know I'm a direct receipent of the funds of this expansion of the welfare state (albeit through small employers and individuals) that purchase insurance.

I don't want your welfare. I want you to actually cut costs. I want you to stand up to insurers, pharma, doctors, hospitals. I want you to force all insurers to be non-profits. I want you to shake PharMA down instead of the other way around. I want you to tell doctors that you can charge $40 for a 5 minute office visit instead of $300 like they tell them in Canada and other countries.

All this reform does is package some nice little potential for savings if all goes perfectly and the system adapts and expand the entitlement by 31 million and then some and at some point (because it always has before) be taken away because the costs cannot be sustained until a level of tax is levied that the US has never seen and politically could never stomach.

You want examples, look at MA that originally took away coverages for legal immigrants. You want others look at the New York MTA that's cancelling bus lines to cut costs. Its only going to get worse over the next several years and no one in Washington seems to be paying attention. They're always 2-3 stories behind the current. Now they're talking about jobs that they should have been concerned with almost a year ago.

Just wait until the monies that the states survived barely on this year from the Recovery Act aren't around and the teachers, the firemen the policemen need to get laid off. Then maybe someone will pay attention.

Posted by: visionbrkr | December 16, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

It's not clear to me what actually is or isn't in the bill at this points, or what's meaningful and what's toothless (ie. if you say rescission is banned, except for "fraud" when "fraud" is what they use to rescind now, then it's toothless). What does seem to be clear is that the bill will provide some wrist-slaps to the industry, and then will kiss and make up by providing a bunch of new customers. Some experimentation will take place that may reduce costs, although whether those reductions will reach the public - well, we'll see, SINCE it doesn't appear that there will be mechanisms to keep premiums from rising. BUT! we'll be taking care of that through subsidies, and putting off the inevitable reckoning if premiums continue to rise. So, notwithstanding Obama's statements to the contrary, we ARE kicking the essentials of the problem down the road.

But to your point - it might help the administration if they would pull back on their PR and stop hailing this as "historic". If they came out and said that political realities blunted what they were able to do, and that what they CAN do is a step in the right direction but not the end of their efforts, people might start to calm down. Because, they can't have their cake and eat it too, which they seem to want. It ain't a touchdown - quit claiming that it is. It's a first down.

Posted by: Melinochis | December 16, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"labonnes: Why are you in support of killing over 40 Americans every single day because they can't afford to buy insurance?"

Yeah labonnes, and don't you know that if you don't support the wars, you'll have the blood of terrorist victims on your hands?

Posted by: Former_Prospector | December 16, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

The question is, where is Reid on killing the filibuster. It's clear that it's impossible to govern with a supermajority requirement. If the caucus can't find 50 votes for that, I want to know who opposes it. So I can do everything in my power to remove them from office.

On the substantive issues, visionbrkr is correct. Everything else about costs is just because we can't do what he says.

Posted by: student16 | December 16, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

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