That, added Hamilton who now heads the Center on Congress at Indiana University, “has to be the model.” When you pass a major piece of legislation on a party-line vote, he said, “It makes it extremely difficult to implement the legislation effectively, because there are so many ways the opposition can interfere, disrupt, delay, or block the implementation of the legislation.” Certainly, that has been the case with health care. And it remains a threat even after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling. Finding a way to win over some Republicans will be a major imperative after November’s election.
The White House, of course, howls in protest at any suggestion the president did not make a good-faith effort to enlist Republicans. Aides point to the much-ballyhooed seven-hour bipartisan health care “summit” at Blair House in February 2010 and to repeated invitations to Republicans to come on board. But the process was flawed from the beginning when the White House left the writing of the bill to Democrats, gave little support to the “Gang of 14” or the “Gang of Six”, and made it clear that there would be no give on medical-malpractice reform even though that could have wooed Republicans. And there was very little personal reaching out by the president to individual GOP members or senators.
But this Court decision, said former Democratic Rep. Tony Coelho, gives the president something he needed going into the election. “It makes him look strong and look like a leader,” he said. “It helps diminish the notion that it is a partisan political deal.” Coelho, who was in the House for 11 years representing a California district, was a House staffer when Medicare passed. He places the blame for the lack of Republican votes on the 2010 health care law on the early decision by GOP leaders to oppose anything the president offered. “Today’s leadership has a hard time cutting deals with Democrats,” he said.
Now, because of the Supreme Court, the pressure shifts back to Republicans to explain why they want to repeal a measure that the Court has judged to be constitutional and that offers some attractive things to voters. And the opportunity is there for Democrats to show skeptical voters – especially those crucial independents who now may be willing to take a second look – that there is something in this law for them.