The House approved the rule governing debate of the big health care legislation by a vote of 242 to 192, suggesting but not guaranteeing, that Democrats would have the votes to pass the bill itself later on Saturday.Whether this vote on the rule portends prompt approval of the bill is a dubious suggestion. The commendably unanimous opposition of the GOP caucus ought to give Democrats pause.
The House adopted the rule by a vote of 242 to 192, with 15 Democrats joining all 177 Republicans in opposition.
Without regard to policy, the political question is simple: Whose analysis do you trust? Should Democrats in purple districts trust Nancy Pelosi's assertion that passing this bill will not have disastrous electoral consequences for Democrats in the 2010 midterms? Or should those Democrats trust their GOP rivals, who appear ready to bet that there will be no downside to a "no" vote.
These purple-district Democrats are being asked to take a gamble, and I would not want to be in their shoes. The "no" vote is the safest bet for any Democrat unsure of his re-election chances in 2010. By voting "no," the Democrat "takes the issue away" from his Republican opponent, and will be able to point to his health-care vote as evidence of his bipartisanship, thus deflecting any charge of being a rubber stamp for the "Pelosi agenda."
The willingness of House Republicans to stand unified as The Party of No is likewise a gamble, although a smaller one. As Jennifer Rubin has wisely observed, the opposition party must oppose. Given that the economy will almost certainly still be in recession next fall and that Obama's popularity will likely continue its decline, the prospect of the GOP repeating 1994 will not be diminished by opposing the Democrats' signature legislation.
Let Republicans stand courageously by their "no," and it matters not whether the bill passes. GOP challengers in 2010 can make repealing ObamaCare their No. 1 campaign promise, and any Democrat in a marginal district who votes "yes" will face a ferocious opposition next fall.