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Health care reform? It’s just a matter of timing

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Rick Horowitz
November 23, 2009
“We’re going to do anything and everything we can to prevent this measure from becoming law.”
--Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Leader

You can certainly understand where Mitch McConnell is coming from.


A recession is an absolutely terrible time to try to ram through some job-killing, budget-busting, big-government health-care reform plan.


And because Mitch McConnell is the leader of the Senate’s Republican minority, he’s got the rest of his flock saying pretty much the same things he’s been saying: You don’t do health-care reform during a recession.


Republicans understand that health-care reform is only going to bring the tax hammer down on small businesses. And small businesses, as everybody knows, are the engine that drives the economy and will have to drive the recovery. Which hasn’t happened yet, in case you hadn’t noticed. Which, in case you were wondering, is all President Obama’s fault.


Now, if the recovery had taken hold by now—well, that would be a different situation altogether. In that case, Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans would still be opposing health-care reform, but they’d be saying that a recovery is an absolutely terrible time to try to ram through some job-killing, budget-busting, big-government health-care reform plan. Everybody knows you don’t mess with success, they’d be saying.


All of which might lead the unbiased observer (there must still be a few of those out there) to conclude that there are only two scenarios—bad economy, or good economy—and that the Republicans are going to oppose health-care reform in either situation.


Nonsense.


The Republicans are also going to oppose health-care reform if there’s a so-so economy. Or if the economy is starting to come around, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. Or if the economy is starting to falter, but hasn’t yet gone completely down the toilet.


They’re also going to oppose health-care reform when they’re in the congressional minority and have virtually no say over the legislative calendar and no time to bone up on a bill’s details. And when they’re in the congressional majority and can set the calendar precisely to their liking.


Another key factor: Who’s the president? Because up to this very moment, the Republicans have opposed health-care reform under only two very specific presidential situations: when there’s a Democrat in the White House, and when there’s a Republican. In every other situation, they haven’t uttered so much as a discouraging word about health-care reform.


Odd-numbered years, of course, are a particularly difficult time to convince Republicans to support health-care reform. Likewise years that border on odd-numbered years.


The time of year matters, too. Call it the Oyster Rule: the Republicans are obliged to oppose health-care reform whenever the bill in question comes to the floor during a month that doesn’t have an “r” in it. Or does have an “r” in it. (You can’t be too careful.)


And finally, forget about any decade with a “5” in it. Republicans are incredibly opposed to passing health-care reform—or, for that matter, Social Security or Medicare or anything else that has to do with helping more people stay healthier—in a decade with a “5” in it. That ruled out the entire 1950s, as you may have heard. But also the 1930s—there was a 1935 tucked in there, wasn’t there?—not to mention the ’40s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, and whatever they’re calling this current decade, which is almost over.


Not that I’d hold out much hope for the next decade either. Change is hard for some people.


They’re Republicans. They have their standards.


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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