These are two stories that combine to be more than the sum of their parts.
Story 1: Rep Waxman has canceled a scheduled markup session for the healthcare bill in the House Energy and Commerce panel. Instead, the Democrats from the committee are headed to the White House to meet with Obama. The markup session is where the bill really gets written, and canceling the session shows that they are not ready to try and move the bill out of the committee because they don’t have the votes. And if they don’t have the votes in the committee they probably don’t have the votes in the House either.
According to TheHill.com it sounds like none of the Democrats are really happy with the proposed healthcare reform:
Conservative Democrats on the panel have criticized the healthcare reform bill’s costs, and complained it does not do enough to reduce long-term healthcare spending. Freshman Democrats have also been worried about growing fiscal deficits and the risk the healthcare bill could add to them, while members from wealthy districts are upset about a surcharge on the wealthy that would be used to pay for some of the bill’s costs.
I’m not sure that Obama or his political hit men are going to be able to get this effort restarted, however. As Minority Leader John Boehner put it (HotIndieNews.com):
There are some members on the Democrat side that got both arms broken during the cap-and-trade fight on the floor, now there’re no more arms to break. That’s why they’re having problems.
There’s another reason for the healthcare bill stalling out, however. And that brings us to the second story.
Story 2: Obama is polling lower than Carter, and – as the USA Today headline points out – polls can affect president’s hold on party. The interactive chart (follow the link) is pretty useful. Just select the “Comparison” tab and then pick Obama and Carter. This is what you’ll get:
The colors aren’t as distinct as I’d like, but the darker line that peaks at early 80% and then begins to descend is Obama’s approval rating. There’s no reason – statistically speaking – to believe that the data we have so far is predictive, but it does clearly show that so far Obama is on a lower trend than Carter was.
And that is perhaps the most important reason that his initiatives are stalling out. He has lost political clout within his own party. Obama has ruled far to the left of the mainstream Democratic party (think Bill Clinton) and while they were willing to follow him as long as his celebrity status lasted, you should not be surprised to see major Democratic defections and rebellions to begin soon if Obama can’t drag his poll numbers back up.