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The 60th Vote Regrets

Now Jim Webb and Evan Bayh tell us.


One of the tragedies of the Obama Administration is the historic political accident that it had 60 Senate Democratic votes in 2009. The ability to break a filibuster without Republican votes empowered the left to think it could pass anything, and so it steamrolled ahead with ObamaCare, which needed every one of those 60 votes to pass.

Now a couple of those Senators are expressing regrets about those votes after the fact. In our pages last week, former Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh rehearsed the looming economic damage from ObamaCare's medical-device tax. He described, as some of us predicted in 2009 during the debate, how the tax is sending jobs and investment overseas in an industry where the U.S. still leads the world. Mr. Bayh, who retired after 2010, provided the 60th vote for ObamaCare to pass.

Another 60th vote, Virginia Senator Jim Webb, is also expressing second thoughts as he heads for retirement this year after one term. "My great regret on that is that I believe the whole health-care issue could have been handled differently by the Administration and over here," he told MSNBC recently. "I think the way that the process was put forward without a clear set of principles from the Administration caused a lot of fear in the country. We had seven different or five different committees boiling up 7,000 pages of contradictory information."

All true, but reporter Chuck Todd pressed if the Senator regretted his vote?

"No, and in the end I voted with the Republicans 18 times, but in the end I voted for it," Mr. Webb added. "We do need to move forward. We need to find different ways to work with these issues. We could have had a smaller, more focused package, and the country would have been a lot more comfortable with the process as well."

Even hedged regrets are welcome, but the irony is that a Senator who says the parties need to work more together will have as his main legacy the most partisan and polarizing legislation of modern times. Had he or any one of the 60 Democrats insisted that the Administration get Republican votes, or drop the bill's worst provisions, history would have been very different.

A second irony is that Democrats only had those 60 Senate votes because of a series of improbable and corrupt events. Mr. Webb won his race by a hair in 2006 after incumbent George Allen stupidly uttered the word "macaca," and the media portrayed him as racist. Alaska's Ted Stevens lost his seat in 2008 by 3,724 votes after he was convicted eight days before the election in a trial in which the Justice Department withheld crucial evidence. He was later exonerated. And Al Franken, who was trailing on Election Day, managed to steal the Minnesota recount in 2008 by 312 votes from a hapless Norm Coleman.

Add the Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback and the other special deals that President Obama used to buy Senate Democratic votes for ObamaCare, and you have the first major new entitlement in history that passed along strictly partisan lines and is as unpopular today as it was on the day it passed.

Messrs. Webb and Bayh can lament what might have been, but the bitter truth is that the only way voters can undo their damage is by defeating Mr. Obama in November and electing a Republican Senate. Otherwise, both men will have left their country economically weaker and health care less affordable than it was when they decided to run for office. That should be their real regret.

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