By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
The Democrats' efforts to enact a bill that would fundamentally change the American healthcare system are continuing despite considerable evidence that the electorate is turning against it.
More than 25,000 citizens and voters answered the call of U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann to come to Washington to lobby against the bill. These ordinary Americans, who came to the capital city by train, by car, by plane, and by bus Thursday at the invitation of the Minnesota Republican, arrived united and vocal in their opposition to the bill being pushed through Congress by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who remains intent on bringing it to the floor in two days during a rare Saturday session of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Pelosi's insistence that the bill come up for a vote is creating something of a desperate situation for moderate Democrats in the House, who reportedly have been told they must vote for the bill or risk losing the backing of the party for the 2010 elections. Pelosi is creating a climate of fear among moderate Democrats who, according to several well-placed congressional observers, have been on edge following the better-than-expected performance by the Republicans in Tuesday's elections.
Undeterred, Pelosi is rushing the chamber's two newest Democratic members—California's John Garamendi and New York's William Owens—to Washington so they can be sworn into office in time to participate in Saturday's deliberations and vote. And, say those same observers, Pelosi had adopted the attitude that she needs the bill to pass more than she needs every member of her caucus to vote for it, meaning that the moderate Democrats who opposed a public option prior to the August recess as well as those who are uneasy about mechanisms to provide public funding for abortion in the current legislative vehicle may find the speaker considers them expendable.
All this occurs at the same time support for national healthcare continues to fall. According to a survey of 1,000 likely voters just released by the anti-Obamacare Conservatives for Patients' Rights, 53 percent of those who say they are likely to vote in the November 2010 election oppose the "public option" type of plan Pelosi is pushing forward, compared to 39 percent who like the idea.
In forcing her members to vote on healthcare reform now, Pelosi is cracking the whip—and may be forcing her congressional majority to walk the plank.