Midterm Implications for Obama Health Bill

On Nov. 2, American voters headed to the polls to cast their votes for the midterm elections, kicking out the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. While the Democrats were able to hold their Senate majority, the party was dealt a few blows, one of the most shocking being Nancy Pelosi having to give up her seat as Speaker of the House.

Pelosi was given the position in 2007, becoming the first woman to do so. Come January 2011, she will have to hand over the title to John Boehner, a man completely different from Pelosi, who comes with an attitude that many consider arrogant; he also was an opponent of Barack Obama’s health care bill.

These results have created quite an interesting situation. President Obama addressed the nation the day after, calling the election “humbling.” Since 2008, the Obama administration has strongly depended on its Democratic House and Senate majorities to pass laws such as health care reform and the stimulus bill without a single vote from the Republican Party.

Now there is the question of whether conservatives will work toward repealing the bill and whether they will be successful at sabotaging President Obama’s large-scale plan of insuring millions of uninsured Americans and, of course, his chances of being elected for a second term.

Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell has already begun discussing Obama’s re-election in 2012. He’s been criticized for his bold remarks related to the Republican Party’s main pursuit of making Obama a one–term president. However, this new situation is not necessarily an outright advantage to either party. Depending on how both sides handle their positions, it can really be to the benefit of either candidate.

Everything is not lost for President Obama, as there has been a long historical pattern in which the president’s party loses seats during the midterm election. Bill Clinton dealt with a similar situation in 1994 when his party lost the majority, and was still able to safely win re-election two years later. However, Obama’s environment is different than Clinton’s, as Clinton was not troubled by a bad economy and a polarizing war.

Further adding to the drama, The New York Times recently reported that the Obama administration is hinting that there will be no significant troop withdrawals in Afghanistan until 2014, at least. However, the elections have proved that Americans are growing weary of foreign issues and want to focus on national problems.
One of the biggest questions that remains up in the air is healthcare reform and whether it will be repealed now that the Democrats have lost the majority. This is unlikely, though, as the media tries to hype the competition between the two parties even though realistically the Republicans still do not have enough power to actually change anything.

The Republican Party knows that repealing the bill would be almost impossible, but what they can do is rely on the help of their conservative governors to help them stall the changes that the Obama administration hoped to enact with this bill. By stalling these new changes they could undermine Obama’s plans and influence public opinion on how well he is doing and how much his presidency has actually influenced American lives.

The Democratic Party can go on the defensive come Election Day 2012 and call out the Republican Party for sabotaging their plans to insure millions of Americans, arguing that gridlock prevented them from getting anything done. It will be up to the voters to once again evaluate their country and decide who should lead them come the next election.

Sophia Solis is a fourth-year political science major. She can be reached at sophias@uci.edu