First of all, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the White House would use all the political muscle it could muster to pass health care reform. This is a top priority for the president, who apparently is urging the Senate to use reconciliation to get the job done.
But the story behind the sudden resignation of Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., is simply bizarre.
Massa first said he was not seeking re-election because of cancer. Then he said he was resigning immediately because of inappropriate sexual remarks made to a male staffer. Then he finally said he was being pushed out by the Obama White House because he opposes the current health care reform bill. (Read about it here.)
Massa called White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “son of the devil’s spawn.” Emanuel, he said, “would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.”
These kinds of allegations would be more impressive if they didn’t come from a guy who had been discredited.
Meanwhile, Utah’s Democratic representative, Jim Matheson, is being criticized because some say Obama nominated Matheson’s brother to be a federal appeals court judge in an effort to sway his vote on health care.
Matheson says he’s furious about this, but he muddied things a bit by also saying he is undecided on whether to vote for reform when it comes back to the House. The final bill hasn’t been written yet, he said. (Read the story here.)
The Matheson story proves how rough politics can be. Constituents, ideologues and local party faithful can be just as ruthless and conniving as many of them accuse the White House of being.
I don’t believe the Scott M. Matheson Jr. appointment was a quid pro quo for a health care vote. That would be too clumsy. I also don’t think Jim Matheson will vote for health reform, given the district he represents.
But are people behind the scenes using political pressure to force their will in this, the biggest public-policy issue of our generation? You would be foolish to think otherwise.