They haven’t decided whether to propose legislation, but any effort by moderate Democrats that takes aim at the individual mandate could embarrass Obama and embolden Republicans who are still maneuvering to take down the health care law.Oh, isn't that nice? After they voted down the line as supporters of Obamacare, now that they're facing the voters next election, they've suddenly discovered that the individual mandate is not a good idea. Well, the time to have these qualms was when the bill was being pushed through the Senate making use of every possible legislative gimmick that they could muster. Ben Nelson is still going to have to explain over and over about the Nebraska kickback that bought his vote.
And it’s not just health care. The senators are prepared to break with the White House on a wide range of issues: embracing deeper spending cuts, scaling back business regulations and overhauling environmental rules. The moderates most likely to buck their party include Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana — all of whom are up for reelection in 2012 and represent states Obama lost in 2008.
The goal is to lay down a record of bipartisan compromises with Republicans, but it could also put Obama at odds with key centrists, right at the moment the president himself is looking to forge a more centrist path.
And their efforts could put Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at a potential disadvantage on key votes. The Senate leader has to protect 23 Democratic seats next year, giving moderates and swing-state Democrats plenty of leeway to prove their independence, but he also has to worry about keeping a unified front for the party ahead of the presidential election. With only 53 Democrats leading the thin Senate majority, if three or four break away on any key issue, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could in some cases claim a simple majority.
And when Obamacare was being crafted, we were all told that the individual mandate was absolutely necessary to fund the thing. The Obama administration argued that exact point in federal court which was why the Florida judge ruled that, since he found the individual mandate unconstitutional, the entire bill had to be unconstitutional. So now these few senators think that they have some idea of how to keep the baby while throwing out the bath water. Where were they in 2009 when the thing was being written? They could have been stalwart then against the mandate and actually have had a role. But they stood down and voted for the whole kit and kaboodle and now they're stuck with it.
Putting on a show now that they see gloomy election numbers for next year isn't going to fool anyone. Voters aren't going to believe their whole charade of pretending to vote against the mandate when they've already voted it into law.