Post Politics Hour

Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 15, 2010; 11:00 AM

The Post's Perry Bacon Jr. was online March 15 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the latest political news and to preview the week ahead.


Perry Bacon Jr.: Good morning. Looking forward to your questions. Perry


Washington, D.C.: With so many moving parts to the health care debate, what's your best guess on what days there could be a vote?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Likely Saturday, maybe Friday. Or if they can't get the votes together to pass it, there won't be a vote.


Ashland, Mo.: The Democrats argue that they will sell health care reform after it is passed. Doesn't this assume the benefits affect more people than the burdens? If most people don't have a problem with losing coverage, pre-existing conditions, covering a child to age 25, etc., how will this assuage the individual mandate? In other words, are Democrats sure those directly benefiting are greater in number than those who are directly burdened?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think part of their theory is that everyone will like the pre-existing conditions provision in particular, even if they are healthy. And that the bill will be more popular once its out of the congressional process of deal-making. It's not clear the mandate is going to overly burdensome to lots of people and therefore politically unpopular.


Axelrod's Ear: Is he tone deaf? The Administration will take on financial reform and Citizens Divided but has done nothing on Job Creation. And don't point to ARRA or the Jobs Bill, the WH's own numbers put the $787 billion we spent saved 2.1 million jobs. What's the $80 billion Job Bil going to do, save 200K?

An article in a rival paper pegs a need of $366 billion for simply maintaining our water systems, upgrading them so they actually handle the amount of rain we get without flooding the Potomac, the Aancostia and the Chesapeake Bay with sewage would create a lot of jobs. Infrastructure Axelrod...Infrastructure.

Anything else is just window dressing.

Perry Bacon Jr.: The problem they are dealing with, and I'm sure you are aware of this, is money. Reg reform/banning corporate contributions don't cost anything, more public sectoring spending raises the ire of A. the Republicans and B. the conservative Democrats. (The Senate this week will pass a $15 billion jobs bill, cutting down the House version, which was $150 billion when it passed in December) The administration wants the economy to improve, but it's not clear more spending is politically possible.


Princeton, NJ: Perry, the NY Times had an editorial today that demolished the arguments that the abortion language in the Senate bill would allow federal funding. TR Reid had a column in the Post giving hard data that health reform REDUCES the abortion rate.

What is it that Stupak and friends cannot understand? Is this simply an act of religious bigotry? How health care discourages abortion

Perry Bacon Jr.: One of my colleagues (Alec Macgillis) wrote a sharp piece on this (( arguing that the Senate language is actually very restrictive. But Stupak has been very insistent so far.


Louisville: By Obama missing several deadlines dealing with health-care reform, isn't this showing how unconfident his is on passing thislegislation.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the deadlines show how hard Congress is to manage, particuarly on a complicated bill like this.


Tone Deaf: I'm aware of the money issue. We elected these guys to end the spending overseas (Iraq and Afghanistan) and start spending here at home. Conservative Dems are going to have a rough November.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the conservative Dems will have trouble at home in November, but I"m not sure if it's A. the Obama/Congress agenda is too liberal B. it's not liberal enough, meaning a bigger stimulus bill might have reduced unemployment more, etc. and perhaps helped members in what is a major recession that has voters in both parties frustrated.


But Stupak has been very insistent so far. : But isn't whether or not Stupak is "insistent" or not besides the point? I always thought journalism was more about taking an issue and evaluating the veracity of the issue as well as sub-issues? There are very few people saying that Bart Stupak's abortion concerns about the Senate Bill are valid. That should be the key takeaway of any reporting on Bart Stupak--independent observers largely think he doesn't know what he is talking about, therefore he is either ignorant or disingenuous (and note either of these conclusions bring up a number of other side-issues to explore that might be helpful to news consumers).

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the article I just posted from Alec makes quiet clear that it's not clear the number of abortions will be less or more with the Stupak language versus the Senate language. Stupak gets to decide his own vote based on the standards he sets; he got elected to Congress. We can point out why his position might not be perfectly logical, which I think we have already done.


Hamilton VA: I see that Clarence Thomas' wife has formed a "tea party" centered lobbying group and appeared at the CPAC meeting. Isn't that a little odd for a sumpreme court spouse?

Perry Bacon Jr.: It is odd, but not illegal or that surprising, as the Tea Party Movement expresses the kind of limited goverment views Justice Thomas espouses himself. It's odd mostly because I don't think I know what the spouses of most justices do, as they don't make a lot of public pronouncements. (I'm sure one of readers will remind me of something I've forgotten)


Frederick: Pre-existing conditions can be adressed without this piece of legislation.

Public support is well below 50% while opposition is around 60%. Why are they pushing so hard?

Perry Bacon Jr.: the Democrats believe 1. this bill is the right thing to do 2. it will help them in november once it is passed 3. failure will really hurr them in november. I'm actually not sure how you would address pre-existing conditions in a comprehensive way without a bill like this


Abingdon, Md.: Help me understand please: This morning on NPR there was a story on how Dodd, after apparently working with GOP members on a financial reform bill decided to go it alone after they could not agree on some of the terms for the bill. After the past two years I really thought this was a no-brainer for BOTH parties--especially given the outrage of citizens of the country. How is it that there is disagreement on controlling things like derivatives and other funky 'financial tools' and establishing an agency/group (whatever) to protect the American consumer is now a source of hot dispute? Of all the things I thought we could all agree on, it is astounding we are back to a Democratic vs. Republican issue.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think there is a general GOP-Democrat split that gets into how much companies should be regulated by the govermment that mirrors debates on other issues in Washington.


Arlington, VA: I'm not Stupak, but I'm assuming that his logic, which is traditional for those who are pro-life, is that paying for any abortions is abhorrent and along the lines of killing one to save a thousand, and coming down on the side of the one. One may disagree with it, but it's not religous bigotry.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Precisely.


deadlines: Why does Obama use deadlines, these are really his wishes, they don't mean anything except they make him look bad when they pass.

Perry Bacon Jr.: It's supposed to push Congress, push the press, etc. I think if the bill passes, we might look back and say parts of their strategy were right. I know there is lots of consternation on the left about the lack of a public option/the months working with Grassley and other things, but if this bill passes, it would be quite a big goal accomplished by Obama.


Washington, DC: OK, Perry, up or down vote, does health care reform pass or not? Put yourself on the line, buddy.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think it will.


Franconia, VA: What is frustrating people is that the Senate bill also bars federal spending for abortions (is appallingly more restrictive than current law, from a pro-choice standpoint), that numerous pro-life religious groups over the weekend called for passage of the bill, and that the Catholic Hospital Assn also strongly supports passage, so it seems Bart Stupak is doing this more for reasons of ego, stubbornness, or politics, rather than a principled position. To me, the issue was originally abortion, but logically speaking, he's got all he needs or would ever have gotten out of a conference. So now it's politics and ego.

What mystifies me about the commenters today is why this inflated-ego big-guy maneuvering is seen as so strikingly unusual. Do people with small egos normally wind up in Congress?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Nice. Yes, a congressman going on tv, making a big splash, emphasizing small differences to oppose a bill, I call it normal.


Polls and Health Care: Here is a question from a Washington Post - ABC poll,

"Which would you prefer: the current health insurance system in the United States, in which most people get their health insurance from private employers, but some people have no insurance, OR, a universal health insurance program, in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that's run by the government and financed by taxpayers?"

62% favored Medicare for All; 33% were opposed. That's pretty decisive.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Maybe you should send this to the White House and the Pelosi and Reid's offices? I am aware of the numbers.


Winnipeg, Canada: Frederick asks why the Dems are "pushing so hard" on the health care bill when opposition, so he or she says, is around 60 percent. Could I ask Frederick if his or her support for Obama's predecessor waned when support for his policies (particularly Iraq) was much lower? Or did he or she praise President Bush for doing the right thing, even if it was unpopular?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think one of Bush's most popular lines was "you may not always agree with me, but you always know where I stand."


Perry Bacon Jr.: Thanks for the questions. Perry


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