Saturday, February 20, 2010

Healthcare Bill Back from the Dead?

Will Dems get a healthcare reform bill though Congress, despite the loss of their fillibuster-proof majority that assumed the existence of heretofore invisible Democratic Party unity?

No. But acting like they might is for them presently an absolute necessity.

We parse the politics this way:

  • On the one hand, Obama is playing the "bipartisan" card, inviting Rs to a Big Meeting to Share Ideas. But since he insists on talking about the Ds' bill as it stands, Rs are rightly insisting that while they'll attend the meeting, they don't expect to do much without a pledge to start over with a clean slate. Gambit: offer some light revisions that look Republican, keep the essence of the bill intact, and when Rs refuse to support, hang the "obstructionist" label on them.
  • On the other hand, Ds loudly leak their "plans" to use reconciliation to get a bill through. This has little hope, not only because it's unclear that it will stand up to parliamentary scrutiny, but because it's extremely uncertain that the Ds could muster a majority in the House for any bill presently, and maybe not even 51 in the Senate, given the stink that would arise from a reconciliation move. Gambit: use the threat of a reconciliation bill as pressure to force Rs to make the best of what they can in the ostensibly bipartisan offer above, maybe peel off some nervous Rs and then make the rest of the party look like dolts.
  • Of course, few expect either of these matters to come to a vote. What Ds really expect is that they might make Rs look bad and recover some of their lost ground for November. Right now, the failure to pass a bill looks like BHO's failure to assess the public's mood and provide effective political leadership. The hope is that by keeping the issue "alive," its death can finally be blamed on the GOP.
Meanwhile, a genuinely bipartisan, genuinely rational bill is out there: Wyden-Bennett. It addresses the original sin of American health insurance--tax preference for employer-provided plans, addresses the problem for a society that refuses to let people go without healthcare--a mandate for insurance, and resolves the problem that mandates for specific coverage inevitably drive costs higher (see the latest attempt to blame the insurance companies with the deriding of WellPoint for raising rates in California to compensate for rising costs) by opening the market across state lines. Sounds good enough for everyone, except those intent on playing this for politics.

To our nervous Republican friends, we urge calm. This thing has always been a loser, and it's not about to win now. Take Douglas Adams's advice, conservatives: Don't Panic.

To our earnest Democrat friends, we urge careful thought. Do you really think that the mess your guys and gals have made of this is simply the outworking of principle or the inevitable sign of a broken political system? Could it maybe be what folks on both sides have said: the consequence of overreaching hubris ("This is our time!") and foolhardy belief that one's own political rhetoric ("America is dying for what we are doing!") actually reflects reality?

1 comment:

Bryan D said...

sopt on. couldn't have said it better myself, so i didn't.