Contra Ben Nelson, there is no need for Senate Democrats to negotiate with Republicans to craft a health care bill that they will vote for. But what does negotiating with Republicans look like? It involves taking key parts of the legislation, watering them down or eliminating them to the point where that specific issue might be acceptable to some cohort of Republican Senators. But what is compromised in that specific policy case has no bearing on the larger question of whether Republicans will vote for health care reform.
Steve Benen puts it aptly, “The Senate is considering a variety of Republican-led changes to a bill that Republicans intend to reject anyway.”
Continuing to do this is functionally pointless. There may need to be steps taken to weaken a bill to attract conservative Democratic support. But weakening the legislation beyond that, which is what negotiating with Republicans does, means that we are doing it solely to make the bill worse. The Democratic Party gains nothing from this. The American people gain nothing from this. Republicans, on the other hand, get to go home and brag about how they suckered their Democratic colleagues into caving on another critical policy piece, which still didn’t earn their vote.
It’s simple – Republicans don’t want health care reform at all. Or, as Rep. Alan Grayson put it yesterday, the GOP plan for health care is a two-pronged prescription of “Don’t Get Sick” and if you do, “Die Quickly.” The Republicans have not taked a reasoned position that Democrats can negotiate with — they just want to kill health care reform. It’s time for Dems to stop negotiating with Republicans.
And let’s be clear about another thing: The law is the law is the law. In the Senate, it takes 51 votes to pass a bill. Legitimacy is not at issue if a bill lacks some kind of super super majority in the Senate. Legitimacy is determined by Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution and by the rules of the Senate. Nelson is making shit up and the weak-kneed Democratic leadership is seemingly more than happy to go along with it. First 60 was an excuse. Now, in some quarters, 65 will be an excuse. But excuses don’t have any weight when it comes to the actual legitimacy of a law and health care reform cannot be an exception to that rule.