Jewish World Review
Nov. 2, 2009
/ 15 Mar-Cheshvan 5770
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), while trying to be clever, instead has planted landmines for lawmakers in literally every state in the union. Remarkably, he doesn't even seem to be aware he was doing just that.
Much like his backroom insertion of the public option into the Senate healthcare reform bill Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) supported in committee specifically because it did not have the public option, Reid's latest freelancing is unnerving his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. His announcement that he tucked in a neat little "opt-out" provision for states has many scratching their heads. The strange move appears to be turning senators off as much for the suddenness, secretiveness and confusing presentation of the idea as the idea itself. It seems to be having the opposite of Reid's desired effect of luring public-option opponents to his side.
Reid lost Snowe and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) with the public-option rope-a-dope, and he could lose a number of Democrats without Lieberman and Snowe as a political buffer, causing him to fall short of the needed 60 votes.
While shoving the public option into the bill behind closed doors was unseemly, Reid sought to pacify jittery senators by conjuring up this new element allowing individual states to opt out.
Unable to explain just how the states would opt out - if it would be a governor's choice, the legislature's, or done by way of a state referendum - Reid's Senate crowd is inching away from him, bit by bit.
With a "trust me - I know what I'm doing" plea as his sole offering, it's doubtful Senate Democrats, en masse, will swallow it hook, line and sinker.
At its core, the proposal, the manner in which it suddenly appeared out of thin air with no Senate committee deliberation, no public airing, no independent analysis, no anything at all, as it turns out, is fundamentally dishonest.
Even if the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores the measure in a way that allows Reid to save face, he nonetheless tossed a wrench into the engine, and many of his colleagues will likely find it difficult to trust his leadership, trustworthiness and judgment - not to mention how governors and state legislators may react once the full scope of the mess starts sinking in.
In one fell swoop, Harry Reid may have guaranteed that what was already sure to be a congressional campaign issue will also be a top issue in literally every state-level race in 2010. Many states are already gearing up to "opt out" of Washington's healthcare reform mandates.
Kansas state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook plans an amendment to the state constitution allowing Kansas to "opt out" of any federal mandate requiring everyone to purchase healthcare. Two-thirds of the State Legislature must vote in favor, as must Kansans in a 2010 referendum.
Kansas is only the latest - it's an idea that has caught on in 18 other states as more Americans feel smothered by the clumsy Big Brotherly love emanating from Washington. They'd rather opt out of the entire package and just call the whole thing off.
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JWR contributor Cheri Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. She is a columnist for The Hill and appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.
10/26/09: Public option for Congress
10/19/09: Big Brother wins
10/13/09: Dancin' DeLay
09/26/09: Paterson under the bus
09/14/09: Start over, Mr. President
© 2009, Cheri Jacobus