Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

April 2, 2010 11:57 PM


[A note of caution: I asked Peter Hart the extent to which current polling on the political impact of healthcare legislation portends the future electoral impact of that legislation. Here is what he said:

"Unlike many events where public opinion polling often measures an 'instant reaction' with a fair degree of certainty, this is probably not the case for the healthcare legislation. The reason is that there needs to be a gestation period and a chance for the public to move from the red hot rhetoric to the reality of the new law. Some of the most intense feelings may subside some, but by late April and May we will probably get a sense of just how much hard and fast division there will be for the 2010 election.]

In six major surveys taken during the 10 days before passage of the healthcare legislation, 49% opposed passage, while 40% supported passage. In 4 major surveys taken since passage of healthcare legislation, 49% continue to oppose the legislation, while a slightly larger number, 44%, support the bill.

A USA Today/Gallup survey (3/26-28) recorded the following reactions to the legislation:

50% - passage is a bad thing

  • Republicans 86%
  • Independents 54%
  • Democrats 15%
47% - passage is a good thing

  • Democrats 81%
  • Independents 43%
  • Republicans 11%
65% - Will expand government's role in healthcare too much
64% - Will cost the government too much
58% - Doesn't do enough to curb rising costs
52% - Should include a public option
51% - Doesn't go far enough in regulating the healthcare industry

The number of people who think the new healthcare legislation will "make the U.S. healthcare system worseā€¯ has grown slightly from early November 2009, and a survey taken a week after the legislation was passed. The number who think it will make the system better has remained the same.

Worse Better Not much difference
3/10 45% 42% 11%
11/09 40% 41% 14%

Between January and 5 days after the legislation passed, there has been little change in the level of enthusiasm or displeasure with the bill.

3/28/10 1/10/10
Enthusiastic 15% 14%
Pleased 30% 33%
Displeased 27% 23%
Angry 26% 28%

The number who think their family would be better off with the bill has not moved since September 2009. The number who think their family will be worse off has grown slightly.

3/28/10 9/13/09
Better off 22% 21%
Worse off 39% 35%
About the same 37% 43%

47% consider passage of the healthcare bill to be a major victory for Obama, while 20% see it as a minor accomplishment, and 33% see it as not being a positive accomplishment.

47% say the Congress should repeal the major provisions of the bill and replace them with completely different proposals. Half that number (23%) think the bill should be left alone, while another 27% would make additional changes to increase the government's role. [CNN/OR 3/25-28]

The healthcare legislation is the law of the land because of three leaders, two of whom are not very popular with the public at large, and a 3rd who has seen his ratings drop as he focused on this issue.

The person that gets the most public credit is the President. But, not to take anything from him, this could not have been accomplished without the Democratic leaders in the Senate and House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was operating under the pressure of his own difficult re-election effort in Nevada. He managed to corral enough Democrats to pass the original Senate bill on Christmas Eve, and then to lead his troops through the legislative dance in March that made passage possible.

But the person who was key to final passage and who does not get nearly enough credit is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

If you think about it, it was the House that moved the most from its preferred positions, like the the public option.

It was Pelosi who through non-stop efforts that got the liberal block in the House (of which she is a part) to make concessions, while convincing many moderates to take the chance of supporting a bill which is less than popular in their districts.

There are those who say she may be the strongest Speaker in the last hundred years. Your editor has not been around quite that long, but in the 40+ years which I have been around, she is a step ahead of all the others.

Looking at the history of the enactment of Social Security (1935), Medicare (1965), Medicare Part B (2003), and Health Care Reform (2010), Health Care Reform is the first of these social welfare/health measures that did not have bi- partisan support.

Social security would have survived a filibuster without Republican support. If there had been an effort to filibuster Medicare, it would not have survived without Republican support.

Medicare Part D was enacted as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. A filibuster on a budget point of order relating to the conference committee report was defeated 61-39, with Republican and Democratic members voting to end the filibuster.

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