Obama’s Legacy And Democrats’ Electoral Fates Tied To Overhaul, Observers Speculate
If Democrats fail to pass health legislation, the loss could have lasting consequences for a president whose supporters have become accustomed to victory, Time writes. "If the President fails to win the upcoming series of congressional votes designed to get health care legislation to his desk, it will be a calamitous failure for his presidency and for him personally, dwarfing the potholes he has hit during his first bumpy year in office. Indeed, the notion of defeat is so unthinkable for his Administration that Obama's foremost argument in rounding up support in the House and Senate is a panoptic imperative: health care is too important - politically and substantively - to fail" (Halperin, 3/15).
Meanwhile, the administration has shrugged off statements by the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, that Democrats would suffer in midterm elections if they pass health legislation, The New York Times reports. Obama responded, "I generally wouldn't take advice about what's good for Democrats" from McConnell. But, congressional Democrats whose political fortunes are at stake appear to be weighing the conflicting views. "Mr. Obama has devoted vast energy and political capital over the last 14 months to get to this point, the presidential equivalent of an all-in bet on the poker table. Should he fail to push his plan through a Congress with strong Democratic majorities, it would certainly damage his credibility as a leader for months, and maybe years" (Baker, 3/14).
That fate depends in large part on Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the Democratic whip whose job is to line up 216 votes, McClatchy reports. "The forthcoming health-care vote puts Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, in the tough position of securing enough Democratic support to gain final passage of a historic initiative that will help define the legacy of President Barack Obama. Thirty-nine Democrats voted against the original House health-care measure in November, 24 of them Blue Dogs. The outcome, he said, could be tighter than the 220-215 vote by which the House passed the original health-care bill in November" (Rosen, 3/14).