Friday, March 19, 2010

Deem And Pass Messaging Fail

So I'm having a conversation on twitter yesterday with a journalist who used the word "controversial" in a tweet describing the Democrats mulling a decision to use "deem and pass" to avoid a vote on the Senate bill in and of itself and instead opting to deem that bill passed and then vote to pass the side car reconciliation fixes and it dawned on me. The Democrats once again failed to see the inevitable attacks when with a little preparation they could have actually preemptively come out strong for "deem and pass" and looked good doing it.

Picture this. Before anybody mentions "deem and pass" on the record Speaker Pelosi addresses the media. Her messaging on the issue is simple, this is all about transparency. Yes she could hold two separate votes on the Senate bill and then the side car fixes but that would potentially allow members of the House to vote two separate ways in an attempt to hide their own intent. We all know as this point that the Senate bill plus the side car fixes is what the final reform product will look like, but in the Senate bill itself there are several problematic issues. One of the main problems with the Senate bill is all of the state specific special deals included in it like the Cornhusker Kickback. Holding two votes gives members the chance to vote for those provisions in the Senate bill then turn around and vote against the reconciliation fixes to take them out.

Democrats could have gone on the offensive and said they did not want to allow anyone to be able to go home to their district and say they voted for health care reform when in fact they voted for the Senate bill but voted against the fixes to make it better and take the special deals out. Using deem and pass ensures that every member of the House votes on the final product and they have to say yea or nay whether they support some of those problems in the Senate bill. That way the American people can have a better, truer way of judging their Representative's vote on the issue.

Instead Democrats came with a message of cowardice saying using "deem and pass" allowed some members avoid making a hard vote for a Senate bill that they didn't support. You can't win a messaging war, especially one on such a contentious issue, coming from a position of weakness like that. When you make it seem like you are using "deem and pass" in order to avoid confrontation then what you are doing is creating the impression that you are doing something sneaky and underhanded. When you assert that you are using "deem and pass" in the name of transparency then you come off looking like the good guy.

Imagine if President Obama had said in that bullshit interview with Bret Baier that he supported the use of "deem and pass" because it reflected what the final health care reform would look like and he was vehemently against those special deals. He would have come off a helluva lot better than he did in struggling to try to stay neutral on the subject and not having a good comeback when Baier asked him if using "deem and pass" was the show of courage that the President himself had called for just a few days earlier.

I honestly don't know who has been coordinating the messaging around this health care reform push but whomever it is should resign in shame. Truly.

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