Obama’s Response to MA-Sen.: Too Temperate by Half

In the wake of Scott Brown’s (un-)surprising victory in Massachusetts’ recent special election, President Obama is visibly trying to project calm:

Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years. [. . .]

Here’s one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. People in Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.

If he means what he says, we’re in trouble. On the first point, the President is surely right. Conservatives and right-leaning moderates are visibly frustrated, but their frustration is both premature and misdirected. It took the general public five and a half years of gradual failure to lose patience with George W. Bush; but congressional Republicans have, in the space of a year, managed to blame Obama’s failure to right the ship of state on her new captain, rather than on the man who tore a gaping hole in her side in the first place.

But the answer must be to patch the hole as fast as possible — not to stall for a consensus on precisely how that must be done. Accordingly, on Obama’s second point, a thousand times no. Over the course of this past year, the Republican Party, and their constituents, have shown a complete disinterest in the work of governing. In retrospect, it was a mistake to put consensus ahead of results. Because it will never come, Obama waits for a bipartisan consensus at his peril. Results will bring consensus, and although the Senate version of the healthcare bill, as it stands, is an imperfect vessel, it’s a substantial improvement over the status quo, at a time when Democrats must, for the good of the country, secure a result.

Our best option, therefore, are these:

  1. Threaten to pass a separate, simple public option bill through reconciliation, now, if the current Senate bill fails;
  2. Promise the same to House Democrats, should they pass the Senate bill as is, thus taking the Senate completely out of the equation and putting the legislation on Obama’s desk ASAP;
  3. Sign the current bill into law, and;
  4. Ram a public option through reconciliation anyways.

There’s no value left in the middle ground. We’ve paid the price for pushing left; it can literally only get worse if we emerge with nothing to show for it. A risk half-taken is the worst of all possible worlds.


  1. Right, now how do we get 25 or 30 Million voters to carry that message to the President and the likes of Mr. Reid?

  2. We may not share an understanding of what the President meant by the second point. To me, it seemed clear that Obama would consider it an act disrespectful of the election’s results to hold a Senate vote on any new proposal that Scott Brown could or should take part in. Anything the Senate has already considered is ripe for further action. Thus, your suggestions (2) and (3) seem perfectly consistent with Obama’s statement, since nothing would be “rammed through” the Senate anyway.

    As to (1), since reconciliation only requires a simple majority, Brown’s presence or absence is unlikely to tip the balance. For propriety’s sake, it is probably best to wait until he’s seated, then pass the damn thing through reconciliation.

  3. Waiting around has done nothing but given traction to special interests trying to fight against it and reduce any major reform.

    While people on the right complain both about it being “forced through” and “backdoor deals” which have been partially caused by this that same lackadaisical process they support, this whole procedure has been so beholden to congressmen who want to hold it hostage for their political reasons. We keep debating this thing to death, and no one on either side think it’s better for it.

  4. This (Brown’s election) could be good for Democrats. They now have like nine months to take the focus from their not getting anything done with 60 votes to their being noth getting anything done with 59 votes.

    1. Yeah except if Mr. Reid had any stones he’d ram it through in Reconcilliation, and then we’d have nine months of actual debate about something that WAS done. At least that’s what I’d prefer . . . .

  5. Also, it hasn’t been said enough, the people in Massachusetts already have their health care reform.

    1. Wow, that’s a really important, horrible point.

    2. Wait, it’s a bad point that I’m making or it’s a depressing point?

      To clarify, just in case, it’s hard to say it’s a referendum on health care when they don’t really have to concern themselves with health care. They have a great program going right now. They already have one that goes farther than the federal one could.

      So why base a state’s response who already has version of universal health care, as a referendum on a federal health care plan?

      1. I meant that it’s depressing.

        It may still be a partly a referendum on national healthcare – pretty much everybody can find something about the current proposals they think totally suck.

        But the depressing thing is that it’s a moral hazard. The people of Massachusetts were able to significantly impair the chance for everyone to get healthcare reform without it significantly affecting themselves, because they already have public healthcare. Hmm, sorta like the legislature itself…

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