Peter: I think Pelosi's move to push for a health care vote tomorrow is a bold move made either out of determination that she can win or stupid desperation that she has to try to win now or never--most likely the latter. The conventional wisdom among Democrats is that they lost Congress in 1994 in part because they never even voted on a reform bill, and therefore that they face greater downside risk not passing something now rather than passing something unpopular. This is a gross misreading: Hillarycare failed to win a vote because it became so unpopular the more voters learned about it, just as polls show declining support for this mess. I continue to believe that the basic symmetry in American politics now is that Republicans by themselves can't change Social Security in any big way, and Democrats by themselves can't change health care in any big way.
By the way, what happened to the criticism that Bush and the Republican Congress erred by governing on a narrow partisan basis, such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003? Now Democrats are about to do the exact same thing, but all the media critics are largely silent about this. Like the prescription drug bill--remember the House held the vote open for more than three hours while Bush and House GOP leaders broke arms for the final votes--I expect that if the vote is called, it might be held open for three hours or more while Pelosi and Obama break arms and trade off votes. I wouldn't be surprised to see nervous Dems switching votes halfway through--if it looks like it is going to fail, a dozen or more might bolt. It will be a thing to watch.
Finally, Pelosi may well reckon that even losing a vote is better than not having one at all, because then she thinks it can be turned into a campaign attack next year: those mean Republicans and their insurance company cronies blocked health care reform! I doubt that will work, but it fits with the supposed lessons of the Clinton failure.
P.S. Don't forget the other mistake of the Clinton experience: GOP Senate leader Bob Dole was always ready to reach a bipartisan compromise with Democrats. The Clintons refused even to consider the idea.
Yes, gross misreading of the mood of the country in 1994. Even today, the only way to make the pkan work out is with stuff like this :
"The JCT (Joint Committee on Taxation) letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain 'acceptable health insurance coverage' and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years."
They would be wiser to make the fine something like a parking ticket and imprisonment? Why not make that really onerous and promise offenders a stretch at Guantanamo? What else are we going to do with the facility? I hear it has a good hospital attached.
Since support is falling and since Congress has to gear up for next year's elections and they do not want to be explaining stuff like that back home, this is a now or never moment. Obama was right last summer that a bill had to be passed in a hurry. I am presuming that there are true believers in favor of national health care and it seems to me that they are saying to America, "Open wide and take your medicine."