Shifting the burden

SHIFTING THE BURDEN…. One of the Republican talking points in the days leading up to the Senate vote on health care reform was, “Can you believe this bill is passing without bipartisan support?” As it turns out, one of the new White House talking points, in the wake of the vote, is, “Can you believe this bill passed without bipartisan support?”

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer had an item the other day tries to turn one of the principal GOP arguments on its head.

Today’s Republican talking point of the day is that the historic health reform bill passed today represents the first major piece of social legislation to be passed without a single vote from across the aisle.

Well that may be true. But it’s not a commentary on this bill. It’s a commentary on the Republican Party, whose leaders made a determination that they were going to put party over progress. That’s never happened before when the nation took on big challenges.

Right. GOP lawmakers would have Americans believe that Republicans’ refusal to engage in good-faith negotiations, and stubborn opposition to the same ideas they’d already endorsed, reflects poorly on Democrats. Pfeiffer’s point is that this argument has it backwards — for generations, members of both parties were willing to step up and work on major reform initiatives like this with at least some sense of cooperation.

We’ve never had a situation in which a major political party simply refused to consider a reform effort of this magnitude. In 2009, the Republican Party, in its entirety, decided to sit on the sidelines, heckling those doing the real work of government.

Pfeiffer added, “The sad truth is that Congressional Republican leaders decided early on that their best move was to ‘delay, define, and derail’ reform — not to find common ground on a bill both parties could support. They made clear their hopes that health insurance reform would be President Obama’s ‘Waterloo’ and that it would ‘break him’ politically. In the process, they lost sight of the fact that this was never about President Obama — it was about the families struggling to keep up with skyrocketing premiums; the small businesses forced to choose covering employees and staying afloat; the 15,000 Americans who lost insurance every day this year. [Thursday ‘s] vote was a victory for them.”

Greg Sargent endorsed the approach. “[T]he die has been cast, and the best route for Dems is to emphasize the fact that the health care reform bill is theirs alone,” Greg noted. “Medicare, Social Security, the Clean Air Act, and many other major reforms all passed with bipartisan support. This is the first major reform in American history to be unanimously opposed by a major party. No need to run from this.”

Sounds like good advice to me.