MItch McConnell Enabled Obamacare

Just before Christmas, I read somewhere that Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the U.S. Senate, had made it easier for Harry Reid to pass the ugly Senate health care bill. I hadn’t understood it at the time and then forgot about it.

But on today’s Huffington Post, left/liberal Lawrence O’Donnell explains it. Here are three key paragraphs:

This time, Republicans tried to look obstructionist. To the media, the Tea Partiers, and Sarah Palin, it sure looked like Republicans were pulling out all the stops — forcing a reading of the bill, forcing a frail elderly senator to vote in the middle of the night. But the Republicans only offered four substantive amendments along with five hopeless motions to send the bill back to the Finance Committee. One Republican amendment actually got 51 votes, but didn’t pass because McConnell’s 60-vote agreement with Reid sabotaged it. A Democratic amendment on re-importation of prescription drugs got more than 50 votes but did not pass. It would have shot a hole through Harry Reid’s bill, as would other Democratic amendments that got more than 50 votes and failed. McConnell’s unanimous consent agreement with Reid made Reid’s bill impenetrable on the floor.

There are no columnists or pundits who understand Senate parliamentary procedure. There are actually very few senators who do. McConnell knows that. He knew everyone would fall for the silly stunts that looked obstructionist while he was surrendering all his power to Reid.

And now the strategy becomes clear: Repeal it! That is the Republican Party battle cry for the 2010 election. Repealing Obamacare is going to be the centerpiece of their campaign to take back the House and Senate. But how can you repeal it if they don’t pass it. Hence, Mitch McConnell’s enabling.

What this shows beautifully is that there’s a difference between the goals of Republican politicians and the goals of people who want smaller government. Duh, I know, but I’m saying more than the usual. What many of the Republicans most want is to be in power. They care much less about what the actual legislation is. They’ve sensed a winning issue in running against Obamacare but, as O’Donnell says, how do you run against something you defeated many months ago. It’s better, from their viewpoint, to run against legislation that has actually passed.

So fast forward to November. Without Obamacare to run against, the Republicans have less chance of winning. Remember: they want to win. But the interest of many of us is not to have Republicans win: it’s to defeat Obamacare. So Obamacare passes, or would have passed without Scott Brown. The Republicans run against it. They win both Houses of Congress and end up with, say, 52 of 100 Senate seats. They pass a law repealing Obamacare. See the problem? Guess who’s President. Guess who has the veto. Guess who will go down fighting to keep his dose of heavy government intervention in health care. Guess what percent of the House and Senate have to vote to override a veto.

Bottom line: Mitch McConnell was willing to have huge additional intervention in health care just so he could have his party run the Senate.

HT to Sheldon Richman.