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Contest!

Timothy Noah is holding a contest:

If you can figure out a way to pass any significant health reform bill between now and November 2010, fill out the form below. You're limited to 500 words, you must give your entry a descriptive title, and you must submit it by Monday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m. ET. I'll sort through the entries, judge their value and pragmatism, and publish the best. Warning: If you repeat a solution that I've seen outlined before, I'll automatically rule it out, because none of those will work. If they did, we wouldn't be holding this contest.

You can enter here, and there are more rules you should read. But I think it's a bit misguided to think of this in terms of new strategies. At the end of the day, these are individual people making anguished decisions about what passing this bill will mean for their careers -- and what not passing this bill will mean for the country. We should really strive to keep that basic calculus of this in mind: If these people want to do the right thing, they can. Strategic brilliance is nice, but it shouldn't be necessary. Lots of congressmen suggest otherwise, however, because that takes the responsibility off of their shoulders.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 25, 2010; 8:41 AM ET
 
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Comments

And, we can help them do the right thing by letting our Congressmen know that we want health care reform (Habit 1).

Posted by: t_seltzer | January 25, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,

This is the problem with your comment and Congress.

At the end of the day, these are individual people making anguished decisions about what passing this bill will mean for their careers.

Being in Congress should not be viewed as a career. You are serving the people not making a career.

Posted by: fiorehoffmann | January 25, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I believe in this case options are pretty well known and it is all up to Democrats if they want to do here something. As Ezra has been maintaining, passing Senate Bill with recon. rider (which goes first in House, that can be a tactical decision) is the best option here.

Talking of contest, the real contest White House needs to run is to submit idea for 'job creation' which White House will get vetted by an outside panel to be adopted in the budget or a separate bill. Paul Krugman argues that there is a dearth of ideas to create jobs. If so, in the internet era and where Millennium X Foundation has set the standards of open competition driven innovation (Burt Rotten, SpaceShip One / Two); this Administration can ask whole of American Brain Trust to submit employment ideas. Tom Friedman entered his one by talking 'million start-ups'! So I believe that is the need of the hour. That is the kind of 'out of box' thinking we need from this Administration (well the one busy with deals of HCR, would not get any such time).

Posted by: umesh409 | January 25, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, I agree completely. This contest, while maybe fun for some, is completely pointless. Thie is no new "strategy" that is going to somehow change the minds of the 218 House members and/or 51 Senators that would need to vote 'aye'. Its not about massaging the language at this point. Its just a pure selfish political call for those that are in Congress.

Posted by: truth5 | January 25, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

" If these people want to do the right thing, they can."

that is all that can be said now.
there is no "new" republican party.
to empower the republican party....gingrich, cheney, mccain, bachmann, steele mcconnell, palin, romney and almost every other one...the legacy of bush....it is beyond chilling.
it would be tragic.
the consequences of losing this bill would be tragic.
we are in a terrible bardo right now.
hopefully, with david plouffe re-messaging things and some impeccable public relations, and some of these politicians walking back their words....they can move this mountain.
as you say,
if they want to do the right thing, they can.
at this point,
one can only hope.

but, hope, is not a small thing.

Posted by: jkaren | January 25, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

"Strategic brilliance is nice, but it shouldn't be necessary."

Of course it shouldn't -- but then, leadership should respect when an individual member is voting his/her conscience for constituents, too, instead of punishing those who vote against them, or rewarding hold-outs they can convince. Special interests and money shouldn't affect the outcome of policy issues. And we shouldn't need political fact-checkers to verify the truth contained in statements and advertisements by politicians and special interests. In short, a lot of ideals are not met by or in the current system, but the reality is that strategy matters, and sometimes it matters a lot, and even more when there's partisan disagreement.

I spent 8 years drafting legislation as non-partisan counsel to a state legislature. I can tell you stories about amendments that were drafted primarily to take advantage of parlimentary rules, so that a certain amendment would pre-empt certain others on a particular expected topic, or amendments that were drafted purely as subterfuge so that the really important amendment would be less likely to draw fire and more likely to pass. I've seen revenue (and other) provisions added or omitted just to affect the committee to which the bill is assigned, or two versions drafted of the same bill, each of which is primarily aimed at going through a different committee at the same time. And most of the time, the extra effort that has gone into planning strategy ends up paying off for the legislator, special interest, party, or other entity that crafted that strategy, in my experience.

You can say that ideally, strategy shouldn't matter, but we don't operate in an ideal world. In reality, strategy matters a lot in legislative bodies. I'm looking forward to reading the suggestions that are submitted to Slate, and evaluating not just their creativity, but the possibility of their practical success. Someone who has a good understanding of both Congressional procedure and political calculations may just come up with some interesting ideas.

Posted by: reach4astar2 | January 25, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Four words: Cleavon Little. Blazing Saddles.

Posted by: Nat_51 | January 25, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

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