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The city of the perishable


Some months ago, Nancy Pelosi told me that she calls Washington "the city of the perishable." Let things sit for very long and they have a tendency to spoil. That, she said, is what informs her theory of legislating. "You get the votes," she explained, holding up one fist, "and you take the vote!" And here she smacked her fist into the other palm. "Because you never know what can happen."

That theory is looking pretty good these days. There were plenty of predictable roadblocks for health-care reform: the filibuster, Robert Byrd's age, Ted Kennedy's health, abortion, industry opposition, the ugliness of the legislative process, the length of time since Congress passed anything this large, and much more. But no one ever suggested that "Democrats will run a hapless bumbler in Massachusetts who will continually insult the Red Sox, mock candidates who shake hands, jet off to D.C. fundraisers, and throw the election for Ted Kennedy's seat to a Tea Party Republican." But then, "anything can happen" is not exactly a new principle.

Back while Max Baucus was wasting months and months in the Gang of Six process, I heard Andy Stern say, "Time is not the ally of change." Seems not.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 19, 2010; 10:31 AM ET
Categories:  Government  
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Next: Think Tank: The uninsured, the debt and the case of the missing primary challenges


The quotes from Pelosi and Stern are correct as long as you're trying to jam unpopular Marxist bills down the throats of the American people.

Better act while the iron is hot and the people are not paying attention. Ya' know like bringing bills to a vote on weekends and/or in the early wee hours of the morning, etc.

An informed and interested voting population is not Pelosi or Stern's friend.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | January 19, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

She in particular has never tried to sell this scheme to the voters. Her one and only message has been: this is inevitable. Lie back and accept it.

Posted by: truck1 | January 19, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

For god's sake, even if Coakley squeaks through, I hope the Dems can replace her in 2012 because we don't need idiots like her stepping into every political hornet's nest in the goddamn woods.

Posted by: HerooftheBeach | January 19, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The reason why Brown's polls surged after XMAS is not the Coakley took a break but rather the People of Massachusetts were repulsed by the legislative sausagemaking that took place in the Senate.

Pelosi's attitude of winning at any cost--or the ends justify the means--is the reason why Massachusetts is sending a protest message to Washington saying stop!

Wall Street's attitude of winning at any cost--or the ends justify the means--is the reason why Main Street is going to go bonkers next week when bonuses are announced.

The message that the People are sending Washington is the the ends does *not* justify the means--and the failure to understand this is the reason why as Jon Stewart put it, the Democrats' balls are glued to their thighs (i.e., hubris and bad karma).

Posted by: msa_intp | January 19, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Much as it's easy to criticize Obama for his cautious, incrementalist approach, I at least recall his and his staffs repeated calls for this legislation to be on his desk in 2009.

Looks like he was damn well right.

Posted by: RalfW | January 19, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Completely agree with pass what you can when you can. Unfortunately, IMO you have fingered the wrong culprit.
Rather difficult to blame Baucus for this--all you have to do is look at the chronololgy. Plus he said from the get-go that there were not 60 votes for public option and guess what--he was correct.

July 14 2009 House finally introduces House bill. House does not pass bill until Nov 7

Sept 16 Baucus releases Senate finance bill
Oct 13 Finance approves bill, with Snowe supporting

Bill could have then be passed in early-to-mid November.
What happened: Reid and Schumer spent TWO months trying to get public option and medicare opt-in inserted. TWO months.
Now I would not fault them--they were doing what their caucus wanted them to try. But if you want to know why the bill took so long to pass, look at those two months once Senate Finance passed it. Plus Reid blasting Snowe in NY Times did not help at all.

Posted by: craig18 | January 19, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

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