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Why We Can't Have Bipartisanship in Two Easy Quotes


Quote one:

As recently as a month ago, Chuck Grassley ... announced that the way to get universal coverage is "through an individual mandate." He told Nightly Business report, "That's individual responsibility, and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility." Earlier this year, Grassley told Fox News that there wasn't "anything wrong" with mandates, even if some may view them "as an infringement upon individual freedom."

Quote two:

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Finance Committee's senior Republican, said the mandate is among the reasons that he couldn't support the bill despite months of negotiations with Mr. Baucus. "Individuals should maintain their freedom to chose health-care coverage, or not," he said.

Photo credit: By Susan Walsh – Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  September 23, 2009; 1:11 PM ET
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It's almost as if you're suggesting that you can't actually negotiate with someone who is not negotiating in good faith. Weird.

Posted by: Jenn2 | September 23, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Grassley's right. The mandate should be scrapped.

Posted by: obrier2 | September 23, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Which Grassley, obrier? The one who was against it after he was for it, I take it?

Posted by: Jenn2 | September 23, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Also, another accurate Onion headline from today: "Democrats Hoping To Take Control Of Congress From Republican Minority In 2010"

Posted by: Jenn2 | September 23, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

It is simply astonishing that any sentient observer could have thought bipartisanship was possible after the stimulus vote, when House GOP moderates like Castle and Kirk voted against legislation designed to pull the country back from the brink, and larded with President Collins' demands for tax cuts. And yet for months the administration, centrist Dems and twentysomething cheerleaders like Yglesias and Klein have openly negotiated with themselves in pursuit of Grassley and others. Well, you live and learn, I suppose.

Next up: Snowe. Ezra, if she waffles or backtracks or drags this thing out unnecessarily, then you owe us cynics a fat apology for all your chirpy "the public option -- who cares?" rhetoric of the past weeks. And next time, pay attention to more experienced heads like Jane Hamsher or Digby. They've recognized the Republicans' vile strategy from the beginning.

Posted by: scarlota | September 23, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"Individuals should maintain their freedom to chose health-care coverage, or not," he said.

"freedom to choose"

the standard and familiar anti-insurance regulation, anti-electric power deregulation, anti-banking regulation,
anti-telecommunication regulation argument

Posted by: jamesoneill | September 23, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I think its going to be interesting when the attack ads start coming out from the debates with Obama arguing against the individual mandate.

Posted by: spotatl | September 23, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

That's one of the most simple and concise servings I've seen in a while.

Posted by: etdean1 | September 23, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Obrier2 isn't all that off base. An individual mandate without an accompanying employer mandate, without a public option, and without adequate subsidies - all features of the Baucus plan - would be very bad - both for Dem politicians and for the public in general. It might get you close to universal coverage but people wouldn't be happy about it. Heck, I even think the House proposed subsidies are too low. With the right features, though, the public would be able to swallow a individual mandate somewhat painlessly.

But Grassley's objections wouldn't change if the mandate was made painless for those affected. As long as the plan is viewed as the Democrats Health Reform Plan and as long as it's going to be signed into law by Obama, the GOP will oppose it even if the only thing the bill did was provide free kittens to all children who wanted them. Grassley is objecting because he's afraid that if he offers even lukewarm support, if he votes for the bill to get out of conference and/or votes for cloture but ultimately votes against the final legislation, he'll get primaries by some wacko. And given that the GOP base in Iowa is pretty nuts, he'd stand a good chance of losing that primary. Doesn't excuse his behavior but that's what driving him.

Posted by: shamey73 | September 23, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Thank God we have a president like Barack Obama who would never change his position on something!

In the Feb. 21, 2008, debate with Hillary Clinton, then-Sen. Obama stated plainly,

“Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured because they have concluded that that 20 percent can't afford it. In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were. They don't have health insurance and they're paying a fine.” BHO, 2/2008

"The individual mandate is probably the one area where I basically changed my mind. The more deeply I got into the issue, the more I felt that the dangers of adverse selection justified us creating a system that shares responsibility, as long as we were actually making health insurance affordable and there was a hardship waiver for those who, even with generous subsidies, couldn't afford it. And that remains my position."
BHO, 7/29/2009

Klein getting back to his hacktastic best. Grassley changing positions shows he is unfit for public office. Obama changing positions, the Dear Leader is always right and indeed, noble. The truth is Obama made a cynical political calculation in 2008 and has now made a different one. How exactly is Grassley worse than him?

Posted by: sgaliger | September 23, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Wow, great job exposing a politician's hypocrisy. It must have been difficult to find an example...

Oh wait, you did blog on the Kennedy Senate seat...

Posted by: kingstu01 | September 23, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

With the right features, though, the public would be able to swallow a individual mandate somewhat painlessly.
What are the features? A pound of crack? If you think people are going to buy crappy insurance because they have too you'll need 2 pounds of it.

Posted by: obrier2 | September 23, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Right, because there's absolutely no difference between changing your mind on policy from what it was 18 months ago of the primary but before you ask Congress to start crafting legislation with some broad priorities in mind, and changing your mind WELL AFTER THE START OF COMMITTEE DELIBERATIONS ON HEALTH CARE BILL, JUST AS THE RESULTS ARE BEING DELIVERED.

Posted by: Jenn2 | September 23, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Yes, freedom to choose. Next time the insurance bill comes from GEICO, I'll inform them that I don't choose to have auto insurance. Then, if I'm stopped by the police and they ask for my license, registration, and auto insurance, I'll tell them about my freedom to choose. And my choice not to have auto insurance. That will go over well, I'm sure, with the police officer and the judge at the traffic court. Not to mention the state DMV. After all, its a free country, and I am free to take my chances, right?

Posted by: opal22 | September 23, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Not that I'm necessarily in favor of this idea but why not have an opt out provision for the individual mandate? Part of the deal could be that if you explicitly opt out of the insurance mandate then you also explicitly waive the right to be treated for any ailment or malady without either paying in cash first, or putting down some type of collateral or deposit. That way you wouldn't be free riding on everyone else's premiums.

Posted by: eglabe19 | September 23, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

The individual mandate is not inherently fair or unfair. It's a trade-off and something of adequate value has to be provided in return. That value has been stripped out of this health care compromise, and so the mandate should go too.

The auto insurance analogy is weak, and not just because we don't have to drive. Twice my car has been totalled by people who were required to have insurance but did not. And I can't use my own insurance without it jacking up my premiums, so it's really the worst of all worlds.

If we're going to mandate health insurance, we should rightly also mandate life insurance, disability insurance, homeowner's insurance, nursing home insurance and pre-paid funeral plans. There should be means testing for prospective parents. In fact, why not have means testing for everybody. No one should be allowed to exist who doesn't have proof of financial responsibility.

Posted by: bmull | September 23, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

grasserly is an idiot.

There must be an individual mandate along with an employer mandate as well. Everyone needs to take responsiblity where they can and if they can't the government needs to step up and help the healthcare consumer for reasons of cost which is prohibitive for the consumer.

I love these people on here that don't want to pay their fair share (or even a small percentage of it) like my friend bmull who argues for mandatory life insurance, disability insurance et al.

Really can you live without life insurance? YES. Can you live without disability insurance, YES (its called social security disability as well as most states offer a small stipend for state disability coverage.) Your argument for shirking responsibility is not going to go over well with the 85% of the population that is currently paying for the 5-10% that "don't want to pay".

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 23, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"What are the features? A pound of crack? If you think people are going to buy crappy insurance because they have too you'll need 2 pounds of it."

The features would be:

*significant subsidies up to and perhaps above the 400% poverty mark
*a public option, a strong PO trigger, or strong co-ops
*an employer mandate (with significant subsidies/tax credits for smaller employers)
*low cost catastrophic insurance for the currently uninsured that would allow people who don't want more comprehensive coverage to avoid the penalty and also be covered for the things - ie, conditions/illnesses/injuries requiring and emergency room visit - that cause premiums/costs to increase for those who have insurance.

Basically, all of the things missing right now in the Finance committee proposal.

If you don't require healthy, younger people to buy health insurance - and make it affordable for them to do so - you can't really have meaningful reform. So the mandate is important but the "features" I speak of aren't coverage features but affordability features.

Posted by: shamey73 | September 23, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

In other news, Chuck Grassley has been a state and federal legislator since *1959*. I'm sure that he's had the freedom to decline the health benefits offered his way.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 23, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Is that some kind of sleeper hold that Kerrey has on Grassley?

Posted by: pneogy | September 23, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

I was initially in favor of the individual mandate as well. However, what I have seen is that the proposed mandate will be for coverage that locks us into our overpriced care, instead of consumer driven care that can bring prices down.

Posted by: staticvars | September 23, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Kerry apparently hasn't forgotten his 'nam moves.

Posted by: TheodoreLittleton | September 24, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

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