Political Problems Multiply As Obama Embraces Republican Health Care Ideas

For reasons I can't quite fathom, President Obama has spent a huge amount of time and effort during the health care debate trying to integrate Republican ideas into the health care reform bill while constantly ignoring members of his own party. While this would make sense if Obama knew he would get Republican votes by adding Republican ideas, that is not the case. Republicans have made it clear that there is no way they will vote for the bill. This makes Obama's decision to continue to load the bill with Republican ideas so perplexing and self destructive. He is creating a potential backlash among the votes he most desperately needs in the House, and a huge, long-term political problem.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is probably not the only Democratic House member angry that Obama is now asking Democrats to vote for a mountain of Republican ideas in a bill that will get no Republican support. From Salon:
"As I weigh it, I think -- for me -- a 'no' vote is something that I continue to lean toward," Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Salon in a brief interview off the House floor Wednesday. "Especially the last additions -- that was kind of a slap in the face for all of us who fought for the public option."

[Snip] The HSAs, in particular, could rankle progressives.

That provision "was, when we were in the minority, something that we fought tooth and nail to keep out [of legislation]," Grijalva said. "I find that ironic -- something that we had fought to keep out, and indeed were successful, gets back in as part of reconciliation. And a public option that enjoys great support in the House and up to 30 senators gets left out. That's something I just don't understand."

This strategy of adding Republican ideas is incredibly stupid, for both short term and long term politics. Short term, Obama needs Democratic votes to pass health care reform. To get Democratic votes, he should be going to those Democrats he needs and asking them what ideas they want added in exchange for their votes.

Long term, this sends the absolute wrong message to Republicans, and creates all the wrong incentives. If Obama is going to add as many Republican ideas as possible to a bill, even if every Republican is against the bill, why should Republicans ever vote for a bill? If they get everything they ask for anyway, why risk any political capital giving Obama the bipartisan votes he wants? In fact, Republicans seem to get even more concessions by not voting for a bill. If Obama ever wants Republicans votes for bills in the future, he need to show them that he will actually remove their top priorities from a piece of legislation if they don't vote for the bill. It is called carrots and sticks.

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