Poisoning the Well

Submitted by Bill Lucas on Tue, 03/16/2010 - 00:00

I have read many times recently that Democrat's use of the budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform will "poison the well' for any future cooperation with Republicans in getting legislation passed.  I fail to see how this is much of a threat.  Republicans have shown so little appetite for compromise on any legislative efforts, their opposition is assumed.  Threatening to withhold future cooperation only means they're going to continue the status quo.  Democrats need to call their bluff and finish the legislation.  

There was a time a few months ago when there was an opportunity for a grand bargain along the lines of the "group of 14" that broke a logjam on federal court nominations.  That group consisted of seven Democrats and seven Rebublicans who broke party lines and agreed to end Democratic filibusters of certain Bush nominees in return for Rebublicans ending their consideration of doing away with the filibuster rule (funny how filibuster fortunes have turned).  

When the health care reform bills were languishing a while back, Rebublicans were at the peak of their bargaining power.  What a few Republican senators should have proposed at the time was an agreement to prevent filibusters of certain other Obama administration priorities in return for Democrats' agreement not to use the budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform.  It would never have passed, but the administration could have been confident that other legislation would get through.

Now it's too late.  Obama's very public second effort to save health care reform means they will not step back from this priority.  Republican opposition to every bill will continue.  The importance of the senators from Maine will rise again, and recruiting of Sen. Brown of Massachusetts on individual bills will be hot and heavy.  The Democratic senators from Montana and Arkansas will bring home new highways and farm subsidies, and Sen. Schumer will get lots of practice on keeping the others in line.  Little else will get passed.  All that's left is the competing spin about who's to blame.