Obamabotch: Webb blasts health reform process
"This country is bitterly divided," says U.S. Senator Jim Webb, whose recent comments fix much of the blame on the Obama administration over its handling of the recently passed health care reform legislation.
"We moved forward without a clear-cut plan," said Webb. "A really good example of how not to pass a bill."
Webb's comments came March 31 in the UVA classroom of political science professor Larry Sabato, who played host less than a month ago to another leading Democrat with a similar rebuke to the Obama administration's methods. On March 3, former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder told the poly-sci students that he'd have finished health care reform by then. The massive health care overhaul spent about a year in Congress before it was finally signed into law on Sunday, March 21.
Webb told Sabato's students how the Administration leaned on him last year for his vote–- something he eventually offered because he believes in health reform and found "more good than bad" in the bill.
"I said specifically to the White House last June, 'How do you expect me to support a concept that does not yet exist?' said Webb. "And that is how, in my view, this country became so divided."
While Webb reserved some of his criticism for Republicans, he noted–- and Sabato later confirmed–- that he voted with Republicans more than any other Senate Democrat on health care amendments because he remained distrustful about the projected costs.
"He's absolutely right," says Sabato. "The Congressional Budget Office numbers are a joke. They were told what they could consider and what not to consider."
Webb's view, the "screwed up" process included "7,000 pages of contradictory legislation" plus the spectacle of senators–- long known as the nation's calm, deliberative body–- having to take 43 votes in two days on the Senate floor, a marathon Webb blasted as "vote-a-rama" that went as late as 3am one day. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"There's an old saying that the administration proposes and the Congress disposes," Webb told the crowd gathered in the Wilson Hall Auditorium. "If you're going to pass something that is this complex, that affects this many elements of our society and our economy, the presidential administration needs to make the proposal."
But isn't that what doomed the so-called "Hillarycare," the First Lady-driven health care reform quashed during Bill Clinton's administration?
"Neither the Clintons nor Obama found the golden mean," says professor Sabato, "The White House should outline the essential elements of a health care bill to Congress and permit Congress to shape the details."
"The process was mucked up from the beginning," continues Sabato, "I've talked to enough senators and congressmen privately to know that's a widespread sentiment."
One of the high points of Sabato's class came in the introduction, as the well-known professor read a nearly 40-year-old account about the heroic Marine-turned-senator.
Six days before the crew of Apollo 11 landed on the moon and two decades before the gathered students were born, Jim Webb was single-handedly taking out enemy bunkers and absorbing grenade shrapnel to save his platoon mates in Vietnam, a deed that earned him the coveted Navy Cross.
In other comments during the March 31 talk, Webb enthused about the new G.I. Bill that he patroned and passed two years ago over a reluctant George W. Bush, and lamented the Senate's inaction on his effort to curb executive pay for the largest users of TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or bail-out bill.
And though surprisingly never mentioning drugs, Webb expressed cautious optimism about his pending bill to reform drug laws in the criminal justice system. Perhaps equally surprisingly, nobody in Sabato's classroom–- presumably including dozens of marijuana smokers, if the statistic is true that one third of collegians partake of the plant currently listed as illegal–- asked Webb about the bill, S.B. 714.