The health care bill is not like civil rights, and it is not irreversible

Last night Charles Krauthammer, in his saturnine, pseudo oracular style, declared that the health care bill will never be repealed. I said that the neoconservatives, like Krauthammer, who is one of them, though he is more socially liberal than they, always end up counseling surrender to the left. But in the Washington Post blog two days ago William Kristol—another neocon pundit I dislike—wrote a brief statement about the future of the health care bill which is a bracing antidote to Krauthammer’s subversive defeatism. When someone says something worthwhile, it doesn’t matter what the source is; the truth and usefulness of the statement are what matters.

Health care isn’t like civil rights

In his remarks yesterday, President Obama compared tomorrow’s health-care vote to the 1964 vote on civil rights legislation: “In just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote. We’ve had historic votes before…. We had a historic vote in civil rights to make sure that everybody was equal under the law.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 originally passed in the House by 290-130. Cloture was achieved in the Senate by a vote of 71-29, and the Senate then passed its version of the legislation 73-27. The House took up the Senate bill and passed it 289-126. Substantial majorities of both parties supported the legislation at every stage.

This is what allows historic legislation to become historic—it achieves broad support, is passed without parliamentary tricks, and becomes the broadly accepted law of the land. Tomorrow’s vote—even if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi squeezes out 216 Democrats to pass the legislation—will not be historic. It will not “end” a century-long struggle over health care. The issue will be revisited in November 2010 and in the next Congress and in November 2012.

And I predict the great majority of what passes tomorrow—if it does, and that’s by no means a given—will never become settled law or public policy. Instead, its passage will intensify a great debate over the size and scope of government that could well result in public policy, in health care and other areas, moving, in the coming years, in the opposite direction.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 22, 2010 09:23 AM | Send

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