In Defense of Congress

By Ryan McNeely

225px-harry_reid_official_portrait-1In the course of discussing Netroots Nation straw poll results that show very high favorables for Barack Obama, Jamelle Bouie hits on a strange blind spot of the progressive base:

While I’m sure there was plenty of disappointment over the lack of a public option in the Affordable Care Act, for example, I don’t think anyone challenged the notion that passing health care is a defining achievement for the administration. By contrast, I’m sure that if you were to ask Netroots Nation attendees to give their opinion on the Senate, you would get abysmally low numbers.

The problem is, Congress is actually the institution that “passed” health care reform. Let’s be clear: the Obama health care strategy was explicitly “hands-off,” which left the details to be worked out on Capitol Hill. Now, this strategy worked, unlike the HillaryCare White House central-command strategy of the ‘90’s. So the administration’s strategy has been vindicated. But to be consistent, if Congress is to be blamed when progressive policy can’t see the light of day, then it must be credited when good policy does get though – and in total, health care reform was good policy.