Alex Massie

The Politics of Health Care

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So the House of Representatives has, albeit narrowly, passed health care reform. Whatever one thinks of the merits of the bill that is an achievement for Pelosi and Obama in and of itself. Lord knows what kind of bill will emerge from the Senate and conference but that's a matter for another day. Will it work? Who really knows? The politics of the issue are, in some ways, irrelevant to mundane questions such as "Is this a good bill?" Almost certainly not, but you go to war with the bill you've got. And, as a smart Democratic friend on K St puts it:

They have to pass this unpopular bill in order to show the American public that they can be effective, and by passing a bill that no one seems to like they will help their own re-election. It would be disastrous if they didn't pass this unpopular bill, that would only show how ineffective Congress and the President are.

Quite. Congress's approval rating liters around the 20% mark and so the GOP's determination to torpedo the bill - on any grounds - has a certain zero-sum logic to it. Denying Obama (and Pelosi) a legislative victory makes sense even if part of the price paid for that victory is making Congress a place where almost nothing happens and what does happen is uniformly terrible. This works fine as an oppposition strategy, but it's not much of a programme for government.

But yes, politically, the existence of the bill is more important - much more important - than old-fashioned considerations of its actual usefulness. It is A Bill, therefore it is Good. Even if it's actually Bad.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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