“We can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold,” said President Obama during his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it health care parenthetical in Wednesday’s State of the Union address. Which is kind of funny, because putting it on hold is evidently precisely what his chief of staff intends to do.
Say what you will about Obama and Emanuel, but they’re not stupid. They know that just taking a rain check on the whole issue would be a death sentence. So Emanuel’s plan to just put it off until we’re done dealing with every single other major problem ever can only be interpreted as an attempt to kill the issue, or at least wash the White House’s hands of it.
Now, maybe there’s reason to hope, as Chait suggests, that Emanuel’s breaking with the president here. But I’m not sure that’s something we can count on, given Obama’s conspicuous absence from the whole process, to the point where even a couple of sentences in the SOTU to the effect of, “By the way, this thing is sorta important too,” were taken as a huge watershed moment in his support. Either way, I’ve yet to see any evidence that this is something he’s actually willing to fight on.
If HCR eventually passes, then the history books will no doubt say that this was one of Obama’s great domestic legislative achievements. But let’s get the record straight: as it stands right now, he’s done nothing to earn the credit. Unless he jumps on the wagon he was supposed to driving real goddamn quick, then even if it gets across the finish line, it will be someone else’s win. Right now, it seems to me our last best hope is Nancy Pelosi.