What the Democrats Should Do Now

Pass health care reform.

Pass the frakking Senate bill as is and have the President sign it before the State of the Union. Heck, have him sign it at the State of the Union. Yes, it will enrage the Republicans but in case you haven’t noticed, the Republicans are already the party of incohate rage. Nothing is going to mollify them.

Passing the bill is, counterintuitively, the right thing to do politically. Americans like people of conviction and they despise cowardice. No matter what, the midterm election cycle is going to be about this health care bill. Spending a year defending passing it might sound like a hard road to walk, but it’ll be a Sunday afternoon stroll compared to spending that year defending failing to pass it.

You’re never going to win over the Republicans — they’ve made that clear ever since the inauguration. To survive, the Dems must fire up their solid base and they must convince independents that they’re fit to govern. The best way to do that is to, you know, actually govern.

Will it seem a little hinky to pass the bill without any sort of conference? Is it a little outside the historical process?  Maybe. But no more so than the grotesque notion that the Senate requires a supermajority to conduct any business whatsoever. If the year becomes a fight over process, at least the direct-passage option has the advantage of actually being in the Constitution, whereas the fillibuster is grafted awkwardly over it.  Moreover, the American people have never been moved to vote based on esoteric questions of parlaimentary process. Heck, if direct passage encourages voters to engage with the creeping dysfunction of their government, it would be worth it no matter the ultimate fate of the bill.

The final reason to pass the Senate bill directly is a whole lot simpler than the political calculus: It’s the right thing to do. The Senate bill will get health care to tens of millions of people while simultaneously taking the first steps towards controlling costs. It has its flaws but it’s a long sight better than nothing. And the Republicans have made quite clear, “nothing” is the only alternative they’ll accept.

Pass the bill, sign the bill, own the bill.  There really is no other option.