Is Bipartisanship Breaking Down on Health-Care Reform?
According to Roll Call, Harry Reid has sent Max Baucus a pretty strong message: Stop letting Lucy hold the football. The Republicans, Reid said, are not going to vote for health-care reform in large numbers. And the concessions necessary to attract Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe would probably result in the loss of 10 or 15 Democrats.
The story doesn't say this, but the likely concessions would also have another effect: They would make the bill less appealing to the public. Taxing employer health benefits, which I support, is a wildly unpopular idea. So too is eliminating the public insurance option, which commands large majorities in polling (much larger majorities, actually, than health-care reform as a whole). A bipartisan bill, in other words, will probably attract three to four Republicans, and in return, sacrifice a half-dozen Democrats, demoralize the liberal base and create a plan that's harder to sell to the public. It's hard to imagine the cost-benefit calculus that could bring those sides of the ledger into balance. The point of the legislative process isn't your relationship with Lucy. It's winning the game (where the game is good policy, and winning is passing your bill, and oh no, I've become Sarah Palin).
On a slightly different note, make sure to read that Roll Call article carefully. Toward the end, it becomes clear that either the primary source for this story or one of the primary sources for this story is a Democratic Senate staffer who doesn't want this to happen and is leaking the strategy to the press to disrupt it. “The demands Reid is putting on some Democrats is going to make it harder for other Democrats to support this," the unnamed source says. "Going the partisan route doesn’t get this bill done any faster.” This article, in a sense, is not simply a look at Reid's thinking. It's a warning from the centrists.
Photo credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite.
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