Conor Rogers, Editor
Ideology: Moderate Republican | Writing from: Washington, DC
Unique to Parliamentary Democracies, a ‘Vote of Confidence’ can spell the end of any Prime Minister’s term. In the parliamentary system, the Prime Minister’s power depends upon his ability to hold a majority caucus – and the failure of any of his major initiatives to pass results in the loss of the confidence of his membership. In essence, when the Prime Minister can’t lead his party on his budget or main social initiatives, a Ministers time in office comes to a swift end.
Had the Iraq War not passed the British parliament, Tony Blair’s days would have ended earlier. More recently, a failed vote over finances toppled the Dutch ruling party just this week. The Canadian Parliament was temporarily shut down in January as Harper’s Conservatives scrambled to avoid a no-confidence vote – but the United States has nothing even comparable to this. Our Presidents are dealt blows to their popularity, or may lose an element of their agenda – but this current healthcare situation, despite its similarities to ‘HillaryCare 1992’ is unprecedented.
This is because unlike most Presidents, Obama has pushed forward with an up-or-down vote – that he very may well lose – on Healthcare. Bush withdrew his push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2005, and barely eeked out his tax cuts in 2001. Clinton wisely retreated on Healthcare and regrouped thanks to Dick Morris – but Obama is full steam ahead on something deeply unpopular and, barring some mathematic miracle of an abortion compromise, is looking increasingly unlikely to pass – at least without a convoluted, drawn-out bloodletting that could be as equally politically damaging as a healthcare defeat.
Obama’s position is unprecedented. Sure, Presidents are legislatively rebuked all the time – their initiatives are tweaked, radicalized or centralized, and sometimes simply voted down or rescinded – but it’s almost always by the opposing party. A defeat for Obama on his domestic priority by a congressed made up of 60% of his own party would leave Washington in a never-before-seen freeze.
When Presidents haven’t been able to pass their agendas in the past, the opposing party has been in control of Washington, thus controlling and moving the congressional agenda (see: President Bush 2006-2008) and the ebb-and-flow of Washington is not interrupted. But with Democrats in complete control, a defeat for Obama makes any progress on anything unimaginable heading into the midterm elections. America would have a lame-duck President, only a year and two months into his first term.
Republicans have questioned why the President is pushing ahead with healthcare instead of job-creation, more economic overhaul or a series of smaller-scale initiatives. In realizing healthcare as a confidence-vote, it’s clear why. Following a healthcare defeat, President Obama would be a President without the full support of either party. If healthcare goes down, Republicans and moderate Democrats will have delivered something unprecedented in American politics: a vote of no-confidence.
Without healthcare, President Obama is paralyzed.
Unless President Obama and the Democrats desire a national vote of no-confidence in November 2010, the fruitless, misguided and public relations disaster that has been “Health Insurance Reform” needs to come to screeching halt immediately – but this White House will continue to push, and push hard for something that Americans do not want now, nor ever. If it does pass, it will be with razor-thin majorities that have required backroom deals, rule breaking and the literal purchasing of our moderate Senators.
No confidence, indeed.