Is Ted Kennedy the Missing Ingredient?
Speaking to George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, John McCain argued that the real hindrance to health-care reform is the absence of Sen. Ted Kennedy. "It's huge that he's absent," McCain said, "not only because of my personal affection for him, but because I think the health-care reform might be in a very different place today."
This stuff just isn't plausible. Kennedy was around in 1994 and there was no deal. More to the point, Kennedy's committee, the HELP Committee, has passed health-care reform. Kennedy's staff, as you might expect, led their effort. But neither Kennedy nor his staff can make the deals for another committee. If Kennedy were in the Senate now, health care would be exactly where it is: Through Ted Kennedy's Committee and stuck in the morass of Max Baucus's Gang of Six.
Meanwhile, if John McCain wants to honor Ted Kennedy, he shouldn't just talk the guy up. He should play a constructive role in passing the legislation that Kennedy considered the cause of his life. McCain says that Kennedy "had a unique way of sitting down with the parties at a table and making the right concessions," but surely McCain can decide what concessions those should be and present them to Max Baucus — or the New York Times — in exchange for his vote.
One of the frustrating elements of the process has been that no Republicans have released a detailed set of concessions that would win their vote. Everyone just professes hopefulness and demands ill-defined "concessions." Or they say they'd vote for health-care reform if everything were different — if Ted Kennedy weren't sick, maybe, or we weren't in a recession. The fact that neither event has much of anything to do with the desirability of health-care reform suggests that they might not actually be the core of the problem.
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