[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/15/art.capitolbldg.0315d.gi.jpg caption="The falling action in the Senate over the next week or two will only exacerbate the partisan divide in Washington, Mark Halperin says."]
In the 7½ months between now and November's midterm elections, millions of Americans will be whipped into a frenzy over the purported evils in the Democrats' health care bill, egged on by Fox News chatter, Rush Limbaugh's daily sermons, threats of state legislative and judicial action and the solemn pledge of Republicans in Washington to make the fall election a referendum on Obamacare. But in doing so, they may be playing right into the Democrats' hands.
President Obama gave a strong closing argument in the fortnight leading up to the dramatic March 21 floor votes, delivering speeches in the key states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia and achieving levels of "fired up and ready to go" not seen since his presidential campaign. Such passionate pleas stiffened the spines of his party brethren, who have been anticipating and dreading months of over-the-top rhetoric about the ruinous consequences of a Democrats-only effort to bring the U.S. into the community of nations that make health care available to all their citizens. Indeed, not every Democratic member of Congress has embraced the White House theme that doing the right thing for the nation is more important than preserving individual seats in the Capitol. But enough hearts and minds were changed to allow the Obama-Pelosi tag team to get its majority at long last.
The falling action in the Senate over the next week or two will only exacerbate the partisan divide in Washington, inevitably mirrored throughout the country for the rest of the year. Republicans in the upper chamber not only will vociferously oppose the Democratic plan to pass the changes to their bill with the simple majority procedure known as reconciliation but will also make it clear that any prospect for meaningful bipartisan cooperation on any and all issues is dead and buried, at least for now.
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