ABC's Cokie Roberts Defends ‘Substance’ of ObamaCare

ABC’s Cokie Roberts, who last December asserted that a "lot of people are going to like a whole lot once they see what's in" ObamaCare, during today’s Roundtable discussion on ABC’s This Week defended the "substance" of the health care bill Democrats in the House are being pressured to vote for, as she referred to civil rights legislation that cost some Democrats their seats and argued that this year some Democrats will "lose their seats over process, but they will take the chance because of the substance."

Before dismissing Republican criticisms of Democrats as inevitable, she argued that parts of the bill are popular and recommended that Democrats push ahead: "The truth is the public is divided on this bill, and when you go into questions about how they feel about particular aspects of it, there's a lot they like. The Democrats have calculated, I think correctly, that they have nothing more to lose on the host of process questions. ... Democrats might as well get the substance and go to the American people and say we've brought about a change in health care because the status quo is unacceptable."

After conservative panel member George Will argued that it is "not good politics" for Democrats to vote for a bill they do not support while depending on a promise by Senate leaders that elements they disagree with will be changed later, Roberts continued to defend the bill:

Well, except for that it might be good substance. And the truth is, American business and American states can no longer afford the health care they’re paying. And unless something is done, it really does affect our competitiveness, and I think, in the end, that that will be the argument that makes the difference. But the process argument right now is clearly going to be very difficult.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Sunday, March 14, This Week on ABC:

COKIE ROBERTS: The truth is the public is divided on this bill, and when you go into questions about how they feel about particular aspects of it, there’s a lot they like. The Democrats have calculated, I think correctly, that they have nothing more to lose on the host of process questions. The Republicans are going to characterize this as a bill passed by a corrupt Congress that has tickle parties, that has, you know, does things in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, and it’s, you know, thousands of pages and on and on and on, and that ship has sailed. So the Democrats might as well get the substance and go to the American people and say we’ve brought about a change in health care because the status quo is unacceptable.

...

The truth is, though, these process votes do matter in terms of election. I remember very well in 1961 – I wasn’t covering Congress then, but I knew it well – when some Democrats, Southern Democrats voted to expand the Rules Committee, and the purpose of that was to get civil rights legislation passed, and several of them lost their seats. It was a very principled vote, a process vote, and they did lose their seats. The same thing will happen this year. Democrats will lose their seats over process, but they will take the chance because of the substance.

...

ROBERTS: The truth is, the reason it’s a year later is that they totally lost control of the message, and they, instead of going out and saying what they’re saying now about the uninsured and all of that, it got all bollixed up in the public option and all kinds of terms that nobody had a clue what they meant, and it was irrelevant to the much bigger picture, and that was the fault of the White House and the Democrats in Congress.

GEORGE WILL: The theory of reconciliation is that the House will vote for a bill full of things they hate and the public hates and later they’ll clean it up, they’ll vote against those things – 2004, John Kerry got in terrible trouble by having said I voted for this before I voted against this. Every Democrat running this fall is going to have to say, well, I’m going to vote, I have voted against it or I’m going to vote against it even though I voted for it. Now, that is just not good politics.

ROBERTS: Well, except for that it might be good substance. And the truth is, American business and American states can no longer afford the health care they’re paying. And unless something is done, it really does affect our competitiveness, and I think, in the end, that that will be the argument that makes the difference. But the process argument right now is clearly going to be very difficult.