Why did House Democrats approve an unpopular health care bill? Rich Lowry reports that it is because they think it was the right thing to do: "it was clear that Democrats considered it a moral and ideological obligation to pass this bill -- consequences be damned."
The real question is why they think that way. The main arguments against the bill seem to be that it expands government control over our lives, that we can't afford it, and that it quite probably will slow down medical innovation. Some also note that it's probably unconstitutional (or would be if our governing class believed in the constitution and not a "living constitution"--i.e: whatever they want it to be).
The reason why this bill cleared the House, in other words, is the same reason why our national government has been creating new hand outs since the 1930s: there does not seem to be a moral argument on the other side. Unless and until that changes, Washington will continue to grow, at ever-rising cost to our liberties.
What might such an argument look like? It would probably emphasize liberty and responsibility. When President Obama speaks about responsibility, he seems to mean the responsibility of the rich, the connected, and the well educated for the rest of us. (Our friends in Washington no longer want to make laws that allow and encourage us to be free. On the contrary, they want to take care of us. All the name of a redefined liberty--liberty from responsibility). That's not the only way to think about it. On the contrary, I would suggest that by taking away from citizens the obligation to care for their necessities, the government encourages us to be irresponsible. That has been the tragedy of Washington hand outs since the New Deal.
Cass Sunstein, President Obama's regulatory czar, suggests that government ought to nudge people to do the right thing. But what incentive do people have to be responsible when Washington takes away from the people the obligation to care for themselves? Charity ought to be as local as possible--that way it can be specific, and, hopefully, reduce the "narcotic" effects of it (to use FDR's term for the dangers of hand outs by government). When our national government (it is hardly a federal government any more) pays our medical bills, it almost inevitably will encourage us to exercise and eat right by law. That's not something I'm looking forward to.