After months of party unity, this week saw the return of Democrats in Disarray. It has truly been a spectacle to behold, as nervous lawmakers screamed bloody murder at the White House and introduced legislation that would only undermine the very law that they had invested so much political capital in.
President Obama can thank Bill Clinton for the psycho-drama.
Instead of putting some steel into the spines of wavering Democrats, Clinton this week took the opportunity to rebuke the White House for its broken promise that no one would lose their health insurance under ObamaCare. The comments unleashed a no-holds-barred Democratic freak-out, pushing Obama to announce on Thursday a plan to make good on that vow.
Clinton and Obama have never been the closest of friends, though they've maintained a good rapport in public. So it was unusual when Bubba took a direct swipe at the president and his health care law Tuesday, saying that "even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got."
As one of the Democratic Party's most respected figures, his word still carries weight among the party faithful, particularly in red states where Obama is kryptonite. So when Clinton publicly chided the administration, it gave congressional Democrats acres of cover to do the same.
House Democrats exploded at the administration in a private meeting Wednesday, venting their frustrations that the White House had put them in a political bind ahead of 2014.
"They're telling us all about actuarial tables and all about how the process would work and all of this is fine and great and it would be great in a classroom and you would get an A on your test," Rep. Steven Cohen (D-Tenn.) fumed to Politico, "but this isn't about getting an A on your test, this is about ads."
Some Democratic lawmakers threatened to back a Republican-led effort to let people keep their insurance plans — even though that bill was largely seen as a poison pill intended to undermine the law. And a couple of blue state Dems, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.), joined on as co-sponsors to a Senate bill that would do something similar.
Obama's fix was meant to placate those rebellious voices. It will allow insurers to renew for one more year plans that do not meet ObamaCare's rigorous new standards, though it will not require them to do so. Millions of people have lost or are expected to lose coverage due to the stricter standards, though it's still a tiny sliver of the overall health insurance market.
Again, if insurers actually allowed such a thing to happen, it would weaken the law and jeopardize everything Democrats have worked toward, since it would cause premiums to rise for everyone else (here's an explainer for how that works). And if ObamaCare doesn't work, then that spells even worse news for Democrats down the line, since their only political advantage in this game is if ObamaCare eventually starts functioning the way it's supposed to.
Does Clinton simply not realize this? Or did he throw Obama and his signature health care law under the bus? Either way, the Big Dog's comments have hurt Democrats far more than anything the Republicans have thrown at them.