You may have missed an important point in the analysis of the Republican reaction and why they are so adamantly opposed to universal health care. Back when Clinton was trying to get it through, the Republicans realized that if the Democrats got credit for something that would turn out to be as popular as universal health care, then the Republicans were finished as a viable political party. They decided to not just modify Clinton’s proposals but to destroy them.
The same fact holds today. They know that if health care is implemented, that they are finished for the next generation or two, and they are desperately fighting like trapped rats.
The sentiment may be overstated, but it’s certainly worth considering. During the Clinton era, Republicans followed historical precedent and battled health care reform in the legislative arena. They defeated the bill and saved their party, so to speak. In the past, when they couldn’t defeat a major bill they opposed, they would simply switch their votes and take credit for it. For instance, in that interview with Lester Feder, James Morone recalls how “in the original [Medicare] vote in the House, the legislation passed by some 45 or 46 votes. It got exactly 10 Republican votes in the House. But that was on a preliminary vote on a parliamentary maneuver to stop it from being buried back in committee. When that vote failed, almost all Republicans then crossed over and supported Medicare.” “The thinking was that they had lost, and they wanted to take credit for legislation that was likely to become popular,” Morone explains.
This time may be unique because Republicans didn’t ultimately switch their votes; they simply took their battle into implementation. And if they’re truly interested in protecting their viability and discrediting health care reform, they will have at least 50 different entry points at which they can slow down the process. Whether voters realize (and the president highlights) what that says about them as a party, is a different matter.