Just when it appeared that the numbers for the Democratic health care proposals passed by the House and Senate couldn't get any worse -- they have. A new poll by CNN and Opinion Research, taken from January 22 to January 24, shows that 69 percent of respondents say Congress should dump the current Democratic health care proposals and either write an entirely new health bill or stop working on the subject altogether.
"What do you think Congress should do on health care?" CNN asked. "Pass a health care bill similar to the legislation that Congress has been working on for the past year, start work on an entirely new bill, or stop working on any bills that would change the country's health care system?" Thirty percent said pass a bill similar to the current ones, while 48 percent said start work on a new bill and 21 percent said stop working on health care. Add it up, and 69 percent say Congress should either write a new bill or stop working on health care altogether. (When CNN asked only about the existing bills, 58 percent said they oppose the bills, while 38 percent say they support them.)
The numbers make it easier to understand why many Democratic lawmakers who voted for the bills in the House and Senate are now running away from the issue. Despite those numbers, however, Democrats remain under pressure from the left to use their last remaining maneuver -- House passage of the Senate bill, followed by revisions passed by the Senate using the 51-vote reconciliation process -- to pass the existing bill. That pressure is continuing, and perhaps even stepping up, as some Democratic senators say they would not vote for a reconciliation measure. For example, the lefty poll analyst Nate Silver writes, "if Democratic negotiators have any brains, you'd think they'd know better than to worry about what Bayh, Nelson, Lincoln, Mary Landrieu or Joe Lieberman are thinking about and see what's doable with some combination of the other 54 votes." And if other Democratic senators pull away, the enthusiasts of the left will presumably urge the Democratic leadership to go forward with 51 votes, or with 50 and the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Biden. And if support for reconciliation should fall to 49 or fewer Democrats -- and public support to, say, 20 percent -- they'll undoubtedly try to think of something else.