Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On educating voters

The Times' Robert Pear reports that labor leaders are backing away from the pre-Scott Brown compromise forged between House and Senate Democrats over the excise tax in the health care reform bill, on grounds that "the proposal is too high a price to pay for the limited health care package they expect to emerge from Congress."

If that's true, it would seem that labor leaders don't expect the House to pass the Senate bill with a "reconciliation sidecar," which is very bad news.   Also striking, though, is the article's snapshot of the extent to which attacks on the bill from all sides have penetrated voters' perceptions, whereas its virtues have not. The attacks cross-fertilize: 

At meetings of the House Democratic Caucus, lawmakers from Massachusetts, including Representatives Edward J. Markey and Richard E. Neal, said they were struck by the vehemence of opposition to the tax in their districts.

Mr. Markey recalled that a constituent had poked him in the chest and said: “Eddie, I’ve voted for you my whole life. But if you think you will tax my benefits and give the money to Ben Nelson in Nebraska, you’re crazy.” Senator Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, voted for the bill after it was rewritten to provide extra Medicaid money to his state.
To which there's an obvious response: if the excise bill is in there, the Nelson giveaway won't be. Even Nelson has asked that the special deal for Nebraska be removed from the bill. So any deal that House Democrats cut that allows a portion of the Senate bill's excise tax to remain in place would entail getting rid of the Nelson deal.

Markey does not say that he did not make that point to the voter. But so many Democrats seem so cowed by every line of attack, no matter how partial, trivial, misleading, disingenuous  -- it's agonizing to watch them cringe.

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