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January 12, 2010

A Year Ago, Obama Was Invincible

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Remember President Obama's huge victory, when he received 365 electoral votes and had historic approval ratings? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post wrote then, "The president's initial job approval rating -- 68 percent -- is the second highest in Gallup polling since World War II, eclipsed only by (you guessed it!) John F. Kennedy who in a February 1961 survey had a stratospheric 72 percent job approval score. Of the modern presidents, Obama's standing is far and away the strongest at this point in his presidency. George W. Bush had a 57 percent job approval rating in February 2001 and Bill Clinton had a similar 58 percent in January 1993. Times were even harder for George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan -- both of whom started their terms with job approval ratings of 51 percent." President Obama's job approval rating right now: 51 percent.

With the President's approval ratings dropping like a rock, this year will see far less deference to the wishes of this unpopular administration.

The Obamacare End Game

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed versions of Obamacare. Now liberals have to find a way to get one bill to the President. Last week, Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) launched secret negotiations on what they need to add and subtract from Obamacare to get identical versions of the bill passed in the House and Senate.

There are three issues:

1) The House bill has the Stupak Amendment forbidding any federal funds to go to abortion services, yet the Senate bill uses an accounting gimmick to allow your tax dollars to pay for abortion.

2) On tax increases, the Senate would impose a new excise tax on high-cost health care plans and the House bill would impose new taxes on individuals with incomes above $500,000 and families with incomes above $1 million.

3) The overall approach to government-run health care. The Senate version, although widely thought not to have the Public Plan, has the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sponsoring private health plans in state-based exchanges. That's a softer alternative to the House-passed explicit Public Plan.

Resolving these issues could be tricky. House leaders will take up the Senate bill soon and consider the secretly-negotiated legislation. They must craft a bill that has majority support in the House and 60 votes in the Senate. The proponents of government-run health care are almost there, yet conservatives still have the opportunity to make a goal line stand to protect America from socialized medicine.

Save the Filibuster

The left wants to get rid of the filibuster, because it's the most effective tool for conservatives to fight against big government. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said last month, "I think, if anything, this health care debate is showing the dangers of unlimited filibuster." This is after the Senate passed the bill with all members of the Democratic caucus voting for Obamacare.

Clearly, the majority in the Senate and left-wing activists would love to abolish the filibuster, so they can exterminate any dissent in the Senate and to make it much easier to have closed door, secret negotiations to pass bills. The longer the debate, the more the American people get involved in discussions.

Under Harkin's proposal, the filibuster would start at the standard 60 votes needed, but would reduce that number by 3 in every subsequent vote until they a mere majority could shut off debate. This new rule would gut the rights of the minority to participate in debate and offer amendments.

The Brown Effect

Next week the people of Massachusetts will vote to decide who will replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The results of this tight election may have a dramatic impact on policy in Washington.

Republican State Senator Scott Brown is running against Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. If Massachusetts elects a Republican, there would only be 59 members in the Democratic Caucus. This would endanger prospects for Obamacare and would have other major policy ramifications.

Conservatives need to dig in their heels in 2010 to prevent an unpopular President and Congress from saddling America with government-run health care and increased secrecy in the legislative process. This week the House of Representative is only in session for a few days and the Senate remains on vacation. For this week, at least, the Republic is safe from Washington elites.

Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

First Appeared in Human Events

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