This passage from August 2009 by Matt Yglesias is long, but please bear with me and give it a read.
I think there’s something perverse in the very strong desire I see among liberals to make problems in congress be about anything other than congress. It’s just not in the power of Barack Obama to make the senate anything other than what it is. To pass a bill, you need sixty votes. To get sixty votes you need Ben Nelson or Olympia Snowe to back your bill. Neither Nelson nor Snowe is especially liberal, and the President doesn’t have a great deal of leverage over either of them. You can try to change the rules, or you can accept that you’re at the mercy of Nelson and Snowe and maybe a few other moderate members. And it’s crucial to remember that these people—each and every member of congress—is an adult human being, capable of making up his or her own mind, responsible for his or her own decisions, and possessed of moral agency. These are men and women who have amassed a great deal of power, and who ultimately need to decide on a daily basis what it is they want to do with that power. If they choose to use it for bad ends, then blame them for that, not Obama or his team’s alleged lack of familiarity with the United States Senate.
Now go read David Dayen’s post, especially this passage.
On Monday, Ed Shultz interviewed New York Times Washington reporter David Kirkpatrick on his MSNBC TV show, and Kirkpatrick confirmed the existence of the deal. Shultz quoted Chip Kahn, chief lobbyist for the for-profit hospital industry on Kahn’s confidence that the White House would honor the no public option deal, and Kirkpatrick responded:
“That’s a lobbyist for the hospital industry and he’s talking about the hospital industry’s specific deal with the White House and the Senate Finance Committee and, yeah, I think the hospital industry’s got a deal here. There really were only two deals, meaning quid pro quo handshake deals on both sides, one with the hospitals and the other with the drug industry. And I think what you’re interested in is that in the background of these deals was the presumption, shared on behalf of the lobbyists on the one side and the White House on the other, that the public option was not going to be in the final product.”
This isn’t to pick on Matt, especially, but this rather bizarre thesis that was batted around in certain circles at the time — that the White House was a powerless spectator in health care reform — was never believable at best, and a transparent exercise in water-carrying at worst. The White House got the bill they wanted.
So when I see posts like this, a little mea culpa would be nice.