Can Democrats Really ‘Go It Alone’ on Health Care?

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The latest twist in the ongoing saga of health-care-reform politics is a potentially new and significant strategy — ignoring Republicans. According to the Times, the White House has apparently decided to "go it alone" with its Democratic allies in Congress, seeing as how, in the words of Rahm Emanuel, the "Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health-care proposal is more important for their political goals" than enacting reform. The Democrats, at least theoretically, have the luxury of going this route, with a filibusterproof majority in the Senate and 78-seat cushion in the House. But in reality, trying to unify what has become an increasingly big-tent party won't be any spring picnic either. Which is why some suspect that today's news is nothing more than a mind game.

• Rick Klein says the "White House never thought it would get more than a small handful of Republican votes anyway," and calls this "damage control as political strategy — a signal liberals have been waiting for, and a way to unite the Democrats who do, after all, control the levers of power." [Note/ABC News]

• Mike Allen and Carrie Budoff Brown call the strategy "a monumental shift in Washington’s top fight of the year, with the energy now shifting to differences among Democrats, rather than efforts to lure a critical mass of Republicans." But even getting the "bare minimum" among Democrats could be a struggle. [Politico]

• Steve Benen warns that this strategy doesn't mean passing health-care reform will now be a cakewalk. "In the House, there are a whole lot of Blue Dogs who, as you may recall, were ready to kill reform in July. In the Senate, there's a core group of about seven center-right Dems who support reform in theory, but have balked at many of the key provisions, including a public option." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• John Podhoretz thinks the "effort to blame Republican intransigence for the unexpected public and polling turn against ObamaCare is almost comic." But Democrats might not be able to muscle through legislation on their own anyway, making this story "nothing more than an obvious and rather lame bluff, an effort to scare moderate Republicans in the Senate into playing ball." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Greg Sargent agrees that this "could just be a tough-talking bluff." But Rahm Emanuel's assertion still "seems significant: It’s tantamount to saying outright that bipartisanship is dead. After all, if the White House believes that GOP leaders have made a strategic decision that icing health care reform is their primary goal, why continue striving for bipartisan compromise?" [Plum Line/Who Runs Gov]

• Allahpundit also wonders if this is "all just a ruse by The One to put pressure on the Blue Dogs to accept a public option? Symbolically kicking the GOP out of the negotiations leaves the media free to focus on conservative Democrats as the true stumbling block to universal health care." [Hot Air]

• Ed Morrissey explains why he doesn't think the Democrats can rely on passing health-care reform through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a bare majority in the senate and can't be filibustered. [Hot Air]

• Matthew Yglesias wonders whether the plan all along was to "give the GOP enough time and rope for them to make it clear that the White House really and truly did make an effort to put a bipartisan process together, but the Republicans were just more interested in obstruction." Of course, if Obama was always going to just corral the Democrats, that would have been easier two months ago, before his approval rating tanked. [Think Progress]

• Michael Tomasky notes that the Democrats are "a long way from" agreeing even among themselves, especially since Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd may not even be healthy enough to vote. With "all these lies, and all this toxicity, and all this hatred," Tomasky is "practically at the point where" he thinks health-care reform "just isn't worth doing." [Guardian UK]