Blue on Blue: Democrats Already Fighting Each Other on Healthcare, Court-Packing Scheme

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Posted: Dec 11, 2018 10:25 AM
Blue on Blue: Democrats Already Fighting Each Other on Healthcare, Court-Packing Scheme

As Republican Congressional leadership learned the hard way after their party's 2010 electoral romp, keeping a sprawling new majority on track and in check -- especially in an era of divided government -- is a serious political challenge.  The hard-charging and newly-empowered Tea Party contingent had its priorities and perceived mandate, but so did more moderate members from swing districts, many of whom were wiped out last month.  Then there was the base.  Conservative voters were delighted to have relegated Nancy Pelosi to minority status, but they expected big, swift, and sometimes undeliverable results to halt and roll back the Obama agenda.  Internal resentments simmered.  Occasional legislative embarrassments ensued, with internecine partisan warfare bubbling into the open.  

Democrats now find themselves in a similar position.  Their newly-elected majority includes genuine radicals, mainline liberals, and self-described moderates.  Their voters ranged from committed ideologues, to pragmatists, to people simply alienated from the other tribe.  Their core supporters loathe Donald Trump, believe him to be an illegitimate president (conspiracy theories have a way of taking root among the faithful when their party is out of power), and expect full resistance.  Reality will be more complicated.  Some of the battles will be papered over, like when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Nancy Pelosi for Speaker shortly after leading a protest outside of her office.  Others will be trickier, like the fight between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House progressives over wall funding and border security concessions.  Then there's the question of "Medicare for All," the shockingly unaffordable government healthcare scheme that is fast becoming a Democratic litmus test ahead of 2020.  A struggle is brewing:

The united front that helped Democrats save Obamacare just a year ago is falling apart over single-payer health care. Deep-pocketed hospital, insurance and other lobbies are plotting to crush progressives’ hopes of expanding the government's role in health care once they take control of the House. The private-sector interests, backed in some cases by key Obama administration and Hillary Clinton campaign alumni, are now focused on beating back another prospective health care overhaul, including plans that would allow people under 65 to buy into Medicare. This sets up a potentially brutal battle between establishment Democrats who want to preserve Obamacare and a new wave of progressive House Democrats who ran on single-payer health care...The rift could come into full view in the opening weeks of the new Congress, as the party long bound by a need to defend the Affordable Care Act tries to embrace a new health care vision it can carry into the 2020 presidential campaign. House Democratic leaders already are emphasizing the need to align behind a more pragmatic agenda...But House progressives, buoyed by voter enthusiasm and a surge of single-payer support among the party's base, have other ideas.

As we've explored on multiple occasions, there is no way to pay for this single-payer experiment, absent gigantic tax increases. Democrats just won by campaigning on the idea that Republicans would uproot a healthcare status quo in damaging and disruptive ways, and by (inaccurately) claiming that the tax reform law doesn't help the middle class. Will they turn around and push a massively disruptive healthcare overhaul that would rip more than 150 million Americans off of their existing plans, hugely spiking taxes on all families, workers and businesses in the process? Even the DNC Chairman has conceded the point on tax increases. These are highly unpleasant realities that statists must acknowledge and deal with. Speaking of the leader of the Democratic National Committee, he's flirting with the truly radical idea of a court-packing maneuver -- via the Free Beacon:

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez delivered remarks during a Demand Justice event where liberal activists pushed radical proposals such as packing the Supreme Court with additional justices if Democrats regain power. Demand Justice, a group run by former Hillary Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon that took a leading role in the fight against Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, hosted a Wednesday night discussion on solutions to fix a "court in crisis" now that Donald Trump has gotten two justices confirmed in his first two years in office. Fallon introduced Perez with a speech on how proposals to "meaningfully reform the Supreme Court" need to be part of the Democratic presidential primary discussion. "We must look at ideas like expanding the number of justices on the Court, to ensure that a future Democratic president might have the chance to fill two or more seats," Fallon said...Perez did not specifically argue for the proposal to pack the court or other recommendations such as impeaching Kavanaugh or installing term limits for justices, but he did characterize the "reform proposals" that were being offered during the event as "practical suggestions."

That hedging sounds like a party boss not wanting to inflame a motivated constituency by rejecting or even challenging their dangerous ideas. Perez basically dodged the core question, but expanded the Left's 'Overton Window' by winking at a wild-eyed scheme to pack the Court by adding seats as a "practical suggestion."  It's not.  Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are still licking their wounds after their previous (comparatively less extreme) power grabs backfired spectacularly. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have forced Democrats to lie in the bed they've made, and it has not been a pleasant experience. Indeed, the current unpleasantness will continue for at least two more years, thanks to the 2018 election results.

Democrats have expressed regret for their prior short-sightedness as they've been stung repeatedly by their own tactics, so I'm not at all confident that there's a critical mass of members who would sign on for such a shocking new escalation. But hardcore elements of the base will demand it, and it could become a lightning rod or threshold question in the already-hopping presidential primary.  It's time for reporters to start getting every Democratic Senator on the record: Will they categorically rule out adding more seats to the Supreme Court?  Mitch McConnell will be watching closely.

UPDATE - On the subject of judges...