Beware the Ides of March
Today is the Ides of March. We remember all too well that Julius Caesar was warned of the dangers of this date (Julius Caesar, Act I; Scene 2 for those keeping score at home).
We are down to the end game on Health Care legislation. It won't come to the House floor on the Ides of March, but it won't miss by much.
President Barack Obama has told Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he wants a vote this weekend, postponed his trip to Indonesia and Australia by three days; and is no longer taking Mrs. Obama nor the children along to demonstrate just how serious he is.
The second most interesting discussions over the weekend in Your Nation's Capital (behind which men's basketball teams would be seeded where for the NCAA tournament) was: How many votes does Pelosi have?
Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that he doesn't believe there are enough votes to pass the bill yet but, according to the Associated Press, Clyburn "says he's confident that the legislation will pass."
That matches what a Republican leadership staffer I spoke with told me. He thought the Democrats might be one or two votes short right now, but by the time the vote is taken enough twists of enough arms will occur to pass it.
It seems disturbingly obvious that not very many of the people whose arms are in peril know what "it" will ultimately contain, but that is a small detail for the Democratic majority hell-bent on getting this thing behind them.
In fact, according to ABC News' David Kearley:
"To retain votes in the Senate, the White House is now backing away from its ban on special deals for individual states, which was a promise the president made after the 'Cornhusker Kickback' was revealed - giving Nebraska extra Medicaid money to win Sen. Ben Nelson's vote."
Let's assume the bill passes - this will be the Senate bill, remember - which still has the bribe money for Louisiana and Nebraska which was proffered for the votes of Mary Landrieu (D-La) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb).
Republicans are saying that any Democrat who is running in a marginal seat - that is a District which is not a lock for either party in November - is being forced to walk the political plank by voting in favor of the bill.
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said on ABC' "This Week" that if the Democrats use reconciliation to "fix" the Senate bill,
"There will be a price to be paid to jam a bill through. The American people don't like using a sleazy process."
I'm not so sure.
My long experience is that regular people - not people who read MULLINGS or watch Cable news - but people who wake up every morning hoping they still have a job when they come back home; who work with their kids every night to see that their homework is done; who base the family dinner menu based upon clipped coupons and items on the grocery store shelves which are on sale they have already given up on this process.
Reports that players on both sides are preparing to spend up to $1 million a day on television advertisements for or against this bill is unlikely to produce a groundswell one way or the other.
The staffs in House and Senate offices know who the "pen pals" are and where they are likely to fall on any particular issue.
Great numbers of Americans who have not already done so, are not likely to be moved to call or send an e-mail expressing their position on health care because they are forced to sit through a gush of TV ads.
There may be a price to pay on November 2 when we go to the polls to vote. If there is a general "throw the rascals out" mood" that will help the GOP because there are more Democrat rascals available for tossing.
But, even if the GOP runs the table and takes control of the House, the leadership would be wise to look for ways - quickly - to not repeat the mistakes of the Democrats in this Congress.
On this, the Ides of March, they would be wise to remember the warning of Cassius in the same Act and the same Scene of the same play:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
They will be underlings again, if they don't learn the lesson that, in the end, it costs more to take it all, than it does to give a little to the other side.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the vote-counting process, the President's trip, and the Ides of March. Also a Mullfoto showing the flooding in Old Town Alexandria yesterday and a Catchy Caption of the Day which isn't very good.