After having conversations today with a pair of Louisiana congressional sources, the following bits of information have resulted:
– The thinking among the House GOP members is that they’re likely to take the majority, and they’ve got lots of opportunities coming up to win the argument in furtherance of their electoral prospects. Obamacare is downright terrible for the country (more on that shortly), but it will be the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party in this election cycle and beyond. Nobody is taking anything for granted, but the expectation is that the American people won’t trust the Democrats with this kind of majority in Congress and the presidency at the same time for another 30 years.
As a result, GOP planning for a new majority is to not only offer the American people something considerably better than Nancy Pelosi, but something considerably better than what the previous Republican majority brought to table from 2000-06.
– We discussed the health-care debate in terms of a comparison with the “knife fight” scene from Saving Private Ryan, in which a desperate battle results in the good guy getting stabbed through the heart while pleading for his life. If the scene doesn’t ring a bell, here it is:
We’ve brought up that scene as a metaphor for the Obamacare debate before. But our source pointed out that while it’s a good comparison, it’s also worth noting that at the end of Saving Private Ryan the U.S. Army came to the rescue and wiped out the Germans; in other words the Nazis might have won the knife fight and poor Private Mellish met with a bad end, the good guys won the war. And the Republicans intend to win this war.
– The rule in the House is that in Year One of a Congress, you work on policy, while in Year Two you work on politics. This Congress has royally botched its work where the rule is concerned; they are engaged in a very divisive policy agenda in a political year after having dragged through 2009 on health care.
– While immigration might be the next big item in the media, don’t be surprised if Card Check doesn’t come first. The unions who control this president and the Democrat leadership have to have Card Check, or the terrible financial shape their pension funds are in will put them in real trouble. Watch Craig Becker, the SEIU lawyer and far-left union advocate that the president has given a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board; something could well be in the works as an end run around Congressional opposition to Card Check.
The unions, outside of SEIU (more on them in a second), don’t want an amnesty bill on immigration – immigration hurts them. So unless Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John McCain bail out the Democrats with a show of bipartisanship it’s entirely possible nothing much will happen there – at least not until the lame-duck session after the November elections.
– On SEIU, if you’re in a contested district and your Democrat candidate picks up checks from established Democrats (largely through their PAC’s), very often with a little digging you’ll find that those established Democrats are merely laundering SEIU money to Blue Dogs and others for whom a donation from SEIU would present a liability. In other words, SEIU will shoot a check to a Charlie Rangel, say, for $5,000 – and then two days later Rangel will donate $5,000 to a Blue Dog Democrat. That Blue Dog getting a check from Rangel doesn’t really ruffle anybody’s feathers; Democrats getting help from their leadership is fairly unremarkable. Had the check come from Andy Stern, however, it’s an instant 30-second spot for the GOP opponent.
SEIU’s pension fund is in extremis, by the way, and should the GOP take back control of the House next year it should be no surprise to anyone if Stern is hauled into a hearing to discuss his management of that fund. The thinking is that will be a very bad day for Stern, and the Fifth Amendment will figure quite prominently in it.
– There are rumors of a third-party candidate emerging in the Second District race in which Joseph Cao has appeared to be headed for extinction as a Republican in a Democrat-dominated district. Cao may not be as hopeless a cause as previously thought; the population of Orleans Parish is a good bit less than has been reported or assumed, and the racial makeup of the district isn’t what it was in 2000 or 2004. Mitch Landrieu’s 65 percent showing in that mayoral race indicates previous assumptions about the monolithic nature of the black vote in Orleans Parish could be inaccurate. The old Democrat political machine in New Orleans is in a state of disarray, and neither Cedric Richmond nor Juan LaFonta have currently done much to line much up for it. With that chaos existing opposite Cao, he actually does have a decent chance to get re-elected as things stand now.
The source makes one point about Cao – namely, that the most important vote he makes is the one for somebody else but Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Cao gets a bad rap for some of his votes, but he needs a wider berth than many conservatives in Louisiana (your author being one of them) have been willing to give him.
– Back to Obamacare, there are now House Democrats making quiet overtures to GOP members indicating that they’re very aware how terrible the bill is and that they need Republican help to fix the parts of it which don’t work. To date, that does not include the leadership – but the feeling is it will soon.
This presents a difficult strategic question. The thinking is that Republicans can’t just sit around and let the country burn while waiting for November to come; too much damage will be done to the health-care sector.
For example, what Obamacare does to the individual insurance market is to completely destroy it. The bill imposes a requirement on health insurers that they pay out some 75 percent of premiums in claims, and while that is onerous enough when applied to group insurers who can operate with a bit lower overhead it will completely destroy those insurers whose niche is individual policies. If you’re an insurer and you operate in the individual market, it obviously costs a lot more in overhead for underwriting, sales, actuarial work, accounting – you name it. The more policies you sell, the more work you’ve got to do.
Typically speaking, individual insurers will work on a 30 percent overhead, meaning that their loss ratio is in the 65 percent range. With Obamacare, that’s illegal. By law they’re now MANDATED to lose five cents off each premium dollar based on how they do business currently. Maybe they can find those dollars somewhere, but private companies who average a five percent profit margin in the first place don’t generally carry a great deal of fat in their operation; it’s not like they’re going to miraculously only need 20 percent of premium dollars to cover their overhead.
Given all of this, there is a major concern that some of these companies will face stockholders who are clamoring for them to break themselves up and sell off assets to settle their affairs – because when your business model is illegal and the government mandates you lose money, the longer you stay in business the more of your stockholders’ wealth you destroy.
If the Democrats approach House GOP members and ask for help in fixing atrocities like this, while it’s tempting to tell them to pound sand by doing so real people will be hurt. Stockholders’ portfolios will tank. Jobs will be lost. The ranks of the uninsured will grow and a large swath of the insurance industry will be lost. It’s hard to say you’re qualified to lead when you stood by, said “I told you so” and allowed this to happen. Focusing on recriminations when you’re not guaranteed to get control of both houses back, which you would need to pass legislation to fix it next year, and you’re absolutely not guaranteed to get any help from the Obama administration anyway, presents even more problems.
– The old hands in the GOP delegation think that a Republican majority can de-fund large pieces of Obamacare, but there is a lot of the bill that can’t be de-funded and will have to be repealed. They’re not going to be able to do that with Obama in office unless the president becomes desperate – and they can’t count on that. It’s a frightening situation.
– Pelosi’s reputation for vote-wrangling is well-deserved, and one story shows what happens when you disagree with her on legislation she wants. In House Democrat Conference meetings, Pelosi made a point of picking, particularly, on recent party-switcher Parker Griffith of Alabama, for example. Griffith used to find himself singled out on health care, with Pelosi calling him out in conference meetings with statements like “Congressman Griffith isn’t with us on this bill, isn’t that right Congressman Griffith? Would you care to tell us why you won’t be voting our way on this?” He finally got tired of it and jumped to the GOP, and Griffith’s hatred of Pelosi is fairly easy to pick up on from his public statements. Of course, Pelosi’s committee assignments are another example of how discipline is enforced in this Congress. If you’re not a reliable vote with the leadership you’re not getting a committee assignment, period. Not that it particularly matters; this Congress’ committees are nothing but rubber-stamps for Democrat legislation and an alarming amount of what goes into a bill in Pelosi’s Congress doesn’t even get discussed in a committee; it’s dropped in after the bills are already reported out of a committee.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be done, and it’s not just Republicans who are disgusted with the new process. But while there might be “good” Democrats like Gene Taylor from Mississippi out there, those “good” Democrats will still vote for Pelosi as Speaker – and in Congress today, that’s the most important vote there is.
– All of this adds up to a very apparent reality; namely, that the Democrats simply can’t govern. They refuse, generally, to pass small bills which provide solutions to narrow issues – everything is a comprehensive overhaul and a 1,000-page bill nobody has read. Had the Democrats agreed to try allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines, for example, it would have been passed immediately with bipartisan support. Reform of policy toward pre-existing conditions? Association health policies? They would have sailed through. But instead, the Democrat style is to pass gigantic poison-pill legislation with all kinds of terrible policy benefiting their constituency groups. And the fights to pass those packages have gummed up the legislative works so that all of the day-to-day operations of the government, like for example the FAA authorization act which has been operating on a continuing resolution for months (which actually expires today, as it happens) and which has been the subject of a fight of its own since the House version of the bill would reclassify FedEx so that the Teamsters would have an easier time unionizing them, haven’t been addressed.
It’s something which hasn’t been fleshed out in the public eye yet, though it might be – the radicals in control are so busy building unworkable and sloppy game-changing legislation that the people’s business isn’t getting done. It’s no way to run a Congress, and it’s a frightening example of the state of American governance.