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Rep. John Dingell: 'The fact of the matter is we don't have time to be angry.'

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There is no politician alive today who has worked as long, or as hard, on health-care reform as Rep. John Dingell Jr. Sometimes called the "dean of the House," the 83-year-old Michigan Democrat occupies the seat his father once held. It was in that seat that Dingell's father introduced the first national health-care bill ever considered by Congress. I spoke to Dingell earlier today about the legislation's troubles.

What's the mood in Congress today?

Congress is not so bad off. It's the country. This was a great misfortune. The result of a poor candidate running a bad campaign. I don't really think health care was involved in it. They've got health care up there. About 3 percent are uninsured, and many of those are illegal immigrants. And [Scott] Brown [R-Mass.] voted for that bill!

I always find it distressing that Republicans stray so far from the truth and run such dirty campaigns, and this campaign was a classic example of that. They refused to participate at all in the drafting of this bill. But they have announced their intention to see that this legislation doesn't pass and that this Congress doesn't do anything so they can then run against it later.

But to take the focus off of Republicans, much of the problem here has been the Democratic reaction to Brown's victory. If they'd calmly lamented Martha Coakley's failures and firmly declared their intention to move forward with the important work of health-care reform, we'd be having a very different conversation.

You're making some assumptions. I think most Democrats are doing the same thing I've been doing. I've been pushing for this for 54 years. The speaker has come out and said just about what you said. Same with the rest of the leaders. The president has made a similar comment. Now, I won't tell you my colleagues are not upset about losing. But I haven't heard anyone say we'll retreat into our hole. When we started this campaign, we only had 58 votes in the Senate. [Arlen] Specter was not a Democrat. [Al] Franken hadn't been seated. We'll have 59 votes after Brown, which is one more than we had then.

What are the Democrats' options going forward?

First, pass the Senate bill. Second, pass the Senate bill and address the deficiencies in a package under reconciliation. Third, address the whole business under reconciliation, with some problems. It's also possible to break off some of the things we've done before and do them. You've got the Patient's Bill of Rights, children's health, government negotiation of drug pricing. There are loads of things you can do.

The first two options seem easiest. But there's been real despair on the Democratic side about passing the Senate bill, even with the prospect of modifications. But no one who understands this stuff thinks the difference between the bare Senate bill and the likely compromise measure is bigger than the difference between the Senate bill and the miserable status quo.

I don't think you're hearing despair. I think you're hearing anger. People feel the matter has been badly handled and that a year's work has been dissipated by the change in the Senate. I'm not satisfied that that is the proper response to this. But I think that when those people have presented to them by the leadership a clear statement of what course will be taken, those people will jump aboard. The fact of the matter is we don't have time to be angry.

What about those who say we should just wait, that there's no rush? You've been around this issue for a long time. What generally happens when these efforts burn out?

I'm sure the same people will be saying the same thing next year or the year after when we have the same damn problems. I don't think we've been hurt so badly we can't move forward. We ought to take this bill to conference and stand the Republicans up in the baleful light and oppose this legislation before the public. They've been whining that its not been open enough. Let the people see it.

So you're saying there should be a televised conference committee to make clear who's being constructive and who is not?

You betcha.

What would you like to see the White House doing?

Well, come up with a clear understanding of the situation, what they're going to do and how to do it. And then a clear, public effort to get it done. But I shouldn't have to tell them that. They've been doing some of it, but it's not been adequate. It's time for them to reinforce their efforts.

Some have broached the idea of breaking this into pieces and doing them separately. A tax credit bill. A Medicare bill. A wellness and prevention bill. And so forth.

Those are all pieces of it. But I'm for doing as much as you can, and I don't think that's enough. if you do it that way, we'll have the same problems we have now. Costs will still skyrocket, people won't get the insurance they need, businesses will keep dropping people, insurers will continue making money through risk avoidance. And you have to tie some of these things together. If you push out prohibitions on preexisting conditions but don't do anything else, insurance costs will just go up for everyone and fewer people will be covered. You need a package that reduces overall cost.

Is the sense in the caucus that the bill is unpopular? Or is it that the bill is popular but that the bill has been misrepresented as something people don't like? To put it another way, is there confidence that this bill will be popular in practice even if it's suffering amidst the political process?

I've always believed that. When I sit down with folk and talk about it, they realize. The opponents have been vastly more vigorous than the proponents. You saw what happened in August. I had people yelling at me about parts of the bill that weren't in there. And they'd say, "Have you read it?" And I'd say, "Hell, I wrote it!" But they were being lied to. They thought there were death courts deciding who would live and who would die.

One aspect of that that I've noticed is that the bill's opponents oppose the bill 150 percent while its supporters are 75 percent for it. The opponents say it increases the deficit and brings death panels. The supporters say it's not their first choice, not exactly what they'd want, but still worth doing. Voters average that out and they get a bill that's not very good.

Nobody ever gets exactly what they want. I've been legislating for 55 years and I can't remember a perfect bill. This bill is a hell of a way from what I would've done. But I support it. It's necessary. It will help. And in this system, I'll have further chances to change it and make it better. In the meantime, people need this.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 22, 2010; 3:55 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Interviews  
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I understand that Rep. Dingell can't say, "my colleagues are a bunch of fraidy cats who had no plan and decompensated at the first sign of trouble," and can't say, "the president has been a total absentee landlord in this process," but I can't help but think he's giving us too much of an "all is well. just business as usual" line here. There's no message to party supporters who need some reassurance that their representatives really care about this whole thing.

Posted by: constans | January 22, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I really appreciate this interview. Often times, looking at Congress as a whole is very discouraging. Like watching a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off, a herd of cats, choose your cliche, it's disorienting and stress-inducing. But when you hear the voice of a single Representative who knows a little something, it's actually quite calming.

Especially when you don't get the sense that the Rep in question is intentionally putting you on. A little unpolished honesty can go a long way. It reminds us that we hired these people for a reason. And happily, some of them are actually doing the job.

Posted by: slag | January 22, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Way to try to pressure the Congressman to say what you want him to say. To his credit, Dingell held his ground.

Posted by: bmull | January 22, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm with constans on this thing. It's not like I'm following it closely, all I'm really doing is feeling the vibrations of the blogosphere in the middle of trying to get some work done. It's the lack of formal message that I'm hearing the loudest, and the utter consternation from the nation at a sudden dissolving of will, the melting of backbone into jelly. Tell me if I'm getting it wrong.

Good thing it's the weekend. Maybe a nice rest will help the patient recover.

Posted by: rosshunter | January 22, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Is there a contradiction here between "Pass the Senate Bill" and "We ought to take this bill to conference?" Does Dingell want to pass the Senate Bill unamended or not?

Most people think the 1st wouldn't need a conference. It wasn't clear, and Ezra didn't make it clear.

Posted by: bobmcmanus | January 22, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

this was a very heartening interview.
thank you, ezra.

Posted by: jkaren | January 22, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"occupies the seat his father once held."

Great qualifications!

Posted by: rmgregory | January 22, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Dingell says, "But I haven't heard anyone say we'll retreat into our hole." If he really believes this, he hasn't been listening. Anthony Weiner stood in front of the cameras Wednesday Night and said The House could not pass the Senate Health Reform Bill, they should scale back the bill, they need to listen to the voters in Massachusetts, etc. etc, follower closely by Barney Frank. If this cowardly, spineless capitulation to one hundred thousand voters in Mass. isn't retreating into a hole, I don't know what is.

Posted by: posterchild90 | January 22, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Asks:

What about those who say we should just wait, that there's no rush?

Notice how Ezra outs himself? WE? WE? As in, us radical liberals? WE?

The Washington Post cannot explain away allowing a far-left (WE!) blogger and not have some representing the 60% of the country that do not adhere to this extremism. Milbank can write his dribble about how great Washington Post is doing, but when you only allow one side of the story to be written, you are the problem and why so many people are angry.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | January 23, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The Dean of the House is not a cute nickname given to Rep Dingell as Ezra implies here. The Dean of the House of Representatives is a title held by the longest serving member in the chamber. So he is not "sometimes called the dean of House," he is always the, Dean of the United States House of Representatives.

Posted by: 5pchickelselect | January 23, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Can I have some of what Ezra and Dingell are smoking?? 100,000 votes didn't decide things in Massachusetts. 750,000 votes did, because that's about what the margin of victory would NORMALLY be in the DEEP BLUE Bay State. Some of the Democrats (Frank, Weiner) get this, but the President and Pelosi obviously DO NOT. The American People are opposed to this bill, and if it is crammed through, November is going to be an absolute slaughter of Democrats in both houses. If a Republican can run against this bill and win in Mass., then NO DEMOCRAT IS SAFE. How will Baron Hill do in Indiana if the Democrat running on Obama's agenda (and with his support) cannot win in MASSACHUSETTS? Get real folks; the bill is dead.

Posted by: eddie_the_k | January 23, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

With all do respect,83 year olds do not belong in Congress.I personally would like to see all men and woman serving in the House and Senate forced to retire at age 70.I watched this rediculous display of wheeling Senator Byrd in and out of the Senate,2 men practically carring Senator Thurman around the halls of Congress.Enough is enough1 If Americans have a forced retirement age it should apply to all Americans regardless of there status.

Posted by: duchess91 | January 23, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Is Ezra Klein a writer for the Washington Post or a paid staffer for the DNC? It's impossible to tell from the article. The Post could save some money if it allowed Mr. Klein to publish his stories through the Post but insisted the Democratic part pay his salary.

Posted by: fawcedo | January 23, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

People like Representative Dingell ARE the problem. No one should spend 50 years in Congress; there is no way to maintain any objectivity or persepective. What you end up with is the total denial you see above. Newsflash: NOT NEAR ENOUGH PEOPLE SUPPORT YOUR BILL. Either sell it better (although you have had a year to do that, and have utterly failed), or drop it.

Posted by: jedwards3 | January 23, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

The first thing that must be said is that the federal government has NO constitutional authority to enact health care "reform." The fact that Dingell does not realize or understand this and his desire for some kind of legacy for him and his family leads him to blame the people for their shortsightedness in not following the lead of the obviously long-suffering and more enlightened politicians in Washington.
The solution for these problems is, first, to scrap this "reform" effort. Second, we should enact term limits for members of Congress. We were supposed to have thrown off dynasties in 1783.

Posted by: markriser1 | January 23, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I suppose LORD Dingell from his lofty safe seat in Congress, the same one his father held, can safely show his contempt for the lowly common working people voters! He clearly has no problem forcing the people to eat the Louisiana Purchase, the Corhusker Kickback, and the $60 billion union payoffs. The high and mighty Democratic Aristocracy in Congress can ignore the people and pass all the corrupt deals that they wish. Go ahead Lord Dingell, Go Ahead!!!!

Posted by: valwayne | January 23, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Helloooo... you clueless people... Ezra Klein, Rep. Dingell.

This is an unbelievable article - only a George Soros liberal like Klein could write something this silly. PEOPLE DON'T WANT OBAMACARE - do you get it?

Now if you really want to be responsible, start with a few basics, and pass that; let's see how that works for a couple years. And oh yes... that is what the Republicans recommended. So instead of talking about bipartisanship, how about actually trying bipartisanship?

Posted by: wilsan | January 23, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The problem with the attempt to sell this bill is driven by the deception used to sell it. Most objective Americans understand the following: 1) you cannot add 30M Americans to the health care system and have costs go down without rationing or quality reduction, simple economics really as you are increasing demand faster than supply, 2) this conundrum leads to claiming a bill is deficit neutral with the slight of hand of counting 10 years of revenue but only 6 years of cost even us trolls can see thru that lie, 3) every American knows that it is extremely rare that any entitlement program
hits original budget projections but rather grows and grows as politicians seek to buy more votes, so passing a new entitlement program will only increase our fiscal problems that have been caused by existing entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamps, and welfare. 4) Indeed most Americans realize that the primary cause of increasing health care costs are indeed Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP so how exactly does adding another reduce costs?, and 5) perhaps more importantly most American people realize that if the government cannot keep a single terrorist off a plane after his father tells said government twice before the incident that his son is a terrorist how in the hell are they going to manage the health care for 300M people effectively? I could go on and on but don't have all day. The only way Socialized medicine is ever going to pass in this country is if it proponents tell the truth about its impact and benefits and "We the People" agree. They need to argue that Socializing the health care system will increase cost and taxes, reduce the quality of our health care, slow its delivery, force those who don't want health care to have to pay for it but is the moral thing to do, everyone can receive poorer health care so those who don't have it now can get some. That is the manner by which the great conservative Winston Churchill sold it in the UK.

Posted by: dalelama | January 23, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Yet another example of a guy in a safe district trying to tell the American people what is good for them when it is supposed to be the other way around. The Brown victory wasn't about health care? Sure, never mind that he made the centerpiece of his campaign his opposition to the health care bill and his pledge to stop it.

And the notion that a televised conference committee that will show the Republicans opposing a bill that the public doesn't want is somehow going to help the Dems reveals how tone deaf the Democratic party has become in regards to this bill.

Posted by: Bob65 | January 23, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

These people still don't get it.."I don't really think health care was involved in it" what an idiot! It was not only health care it's all of the stuff the these Democrats are trying to ram down our throats. The Dems need to step back and re-access what the majority of Americans want.. I'll tell you I was no Bush fan but the Bush years are starting to look good compared to this bunch.....

Posted by: bho123 | January 23, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Dingell is great for the Republicans ... another Nancy Pelosi ... "we heard you America ... BUT ... we're going to do what we want anyway."

Posted by: usr105 | January 23, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Dingell is talking to an ever shrinking base. He strives to make the Dems as unpopular as the GOP has become.

Posted by: Steve851 | January 23, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

It's clear from the various stories today that 'talking points' have shifted back to Martha Coakley's deficiencies as a candidate (she's as good as any other member of the Mass. delegation and, in another political season, I would have been proud to vote for her as the first woman Senator. Criticisms of her and the campaign are offensive). Also, today, many articles are focusing on how we in Massachusetts have universal coverage. Yes, we do. It's expensive, some of the new plans out there (marketed to the newly-insured) are very unpopular with physicians. In various parts of the state there don't seem to be sufficient medical providers to meet the new demand. Patients, as a result, face longer wait times for care. And,did I mention the cost? Massachusetts now recognizes the need to address these high costs.

Yet, some writers and politicians would charge that we Massachusetts voters simply don't want to extend to others benefits that we currently enjoy. That we're greedy and selfish. One Boston Globe columnist went so far to say "I've (Ma. voters)got mine, you're on your own."

More divisiveness - partisanship. Can I speak for other voters here? Maybe not, but I and many others I spoke to want to see Congress go back and start over. Look at those pieces of reform that will truly reduce the cost of care. Yes, we do favor an incremental path and what we don't want to see are giveaways to unions, Big Pharma and other special interests.

Posted by: alto1215 | January 23, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Face it Dingell, you liberals are always angry. Its part of your nature. You try to pass it off saying the conservatives are angry, yes we are, but we get over it. You cant get away from Bush...calling both 00 and 04 elections thrown. Its time to get over it because the citizens are finally awake and you're going to be back in the minority where you belong

Posted by: biorep1 | January 23, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to Mr. Dingell, most of the healthcare cost problems are the result of "well meaning" legislation that divorces the individual from personal responsibility for healthcare. And with your tenure, you are accountable for the mess.

Health insurance is not insurance but rather a form of "prepaid service" that punishes the individuals who take responsibility for their health and benefits people who don't. Take obesity, for example. The long list of symptoms associated with obesity, like type 2 diabetes, are almost completely avoidable and reversable. Yet, today, the obese impose billions of cost on the healthcare systems and the fit subsidize this completely unnecessary cost.

We need legislation that gets the government out of the healthcare business and makes individuals responsible. Eliminate subsidies for employer provided healthcare and unlock this unnatural relationship between employment and healthcare risk management. Let all individual purchase the amount of insurance that meets their own risk/financial profile. Some will choose "prepaid plans" others will choose "catastrophic plans". Some might even choose none of the above. Then watch how productive the healthcare industry gets as consumers demand better care for less and entrepreneurs create alternative delivery approaches.

This is a clear case where government is the problem, not the solution.

Posted by: Nativsf | January 23, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Democrats have bungled things miserably...and Mr. Dingel, is part of the problem. Like Strom Thurman (dead now thanks G-d, and Byrd of WV) he has been in Congress far too long. His work to "reform health care" is what Democrats have done wrong. The dream of the Demcoratic party for the past 90 or so years has never been "reform of health care". It's always been a desire of power and control over the lives of all Americans. You can guarantee that if they are successful in their blind attempt to seize control of the American health care system, only those who are of the "correct" politics will be given access to the best health care. And that is a shadow of the USSR and the Peoples "Republic" of China.

Of course if they do manage to gain control of the health care system and then are stupid enough to allow further electionns...the Democratic party may be left with only 103 seats in the House and 41 (+ 2 independents) in the Senate.

A recent analysis has shown the more than 156 of the seats Dem's hold in the House are now vulnerable because of the grasping over-reach Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama have shown in the past year.

The mandate they thought they had, has turned out to a "not-Bush" mandate...and that's vastly different to the agenda they've exposed in the past year...

Posted by: ravail136 | January 23, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

If a bill is passed, it should be named after Ezra Klein, the tireless objective journalist who refuses to acknowledge the Republican proposals to get real health care reform, and control costs.

Posted by: kurtmudgeon1 | January 23, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

This just in: CBO says that the Senate bill will result in a net INCREASE in the federal deficit to the tune of $226B between 2010-2019. Net effect on the Medicare trust fund would be positive, but that result assumes $245B in Medicare savings which won't happen in the real world.

Isn't $226B more than "one thin dime"?

Posted by: Policywonky | January 23, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Nice old man "inherited" the job. If you READ the bills, the CBO docs, the manager's amendment and CMMS material and if you UNDERSTAND what you've read, you'll NOT want this bill(s).
It INCREASES the deficit (CBO/CMMS); it will INCREASE premiums in the individual mkt (CBO/Wellpoint/ BC/BS). It will LIKELY limit access to hlth care for seniors and DECREASE the quality of care (CBO on Mgr's Amdmnt), 2nd 10 yr estimates are MEANINGLESS (CBO's word). The various regulations/fee reductions will likely produce BANKRUPTCIES among providers w/in 5 yrs (CBO). YOU WILL LOSE YOUR CURRENT PLAN sooner (if ANYTHING in your ind plan changes, i.e. copays, deductibles, etc) or later (Employers MUST provide an EXCHANGE PLAN by 5th yr of the bill.) The Independent Payment Advisory Board WILL determine "effective" trtmnts, WILL fine/penalize MD's who prescribe EXCESSIVE expensive trtmnts, WILL limit the growth of MD owned hospitals SUCH as MAYO Clinic.

The Mayo clinic NO LONGER TREATS Medicaid patients in 1 of their AZ facilities. This bill GUTS Medicare ($583 billion in cuts) and REDUCES Medicare pmt rates 21% in 2010 w/ add'l REDUCTIONS in later yrs.


Posted by: JohnLeeHooker1 | January 23, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse


What a softball interview. Conference committee with Republicans? Short memory you have. Dingell is blaming republicans for not coming to the table. They were never invited and the conference committee was closed to republicans and the public. You call yourself a journalist. This is why the American people are hopping mad and you are a part of the BS comin out of Washington. No mention of the corruption authored by Democrats in the senate and the WH to get this thing to pass.

Posted by: lonestarkid | January 23, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

After this interview, the only question is who is the more senile: Dingell or Klein? It is hard to understand how such a poor journalist could be working for the Post. It is one thing to have a bit of bias and another thing to be totally lame.

Posted by: CincinnatiRIck | January 23, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

If Mr Dingell truly believes the Senate bill is truly good for the people, then be prepared to discuss the 2000 page bill and explain every paragraph in there in a public forum. In the age of the Internet, it is a trivial matter to create a webpage that goes through the entire document and let the people know what this bill is truly about.

Presumably Mt Dingell means to say that the item that taxes the "Cadillac" insurance premiums will no longer exempt unions and apply to all who work in progressive companies who provide the beat insurance coverage to their employees.

On top of that it is a foregone conclusion that the states exempted like Nevada Louisianna, Nebraska and others will have to start with the same level as all others as a starting point.

After this please explain and justify the need to establish or expand government departments to administer all the aspects of this reform and please please explain the extra costs.

Even people in massachusetts who support the current healthplan know that it has increased their tax burden with no benefit to the vast majority of the public. But let's say there are a many people willing to be charitable and pay to help the less fortunate get healthcare.

The pretense of the reform not becoming a money pit runs counter to the current experience of the people with what happened with romneycare.

Mr Dingell should realize that there is a sizable portion of the American public that distrusts governments who spend without any pretense of being able to repay these deficits. When Karl Rove said "Deficits don't matter, some households took notice. ". Eventually 2008 saw them turfed out because they mismanaged the economy.

But progressives who thought 2008 was a nod for them to practice their medicine are mistaken. Their massive overspending didn't create jobs for one simple reason. Governments cannot create real jobs. The role of governments is to foster positive conditions for jobs creation. Only the private sector can create jobs. Please learn from your mistakes and move on. Raise debt ceilings at your peril.

Posted by: mapledragon | January 23, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect to Mr Dingell, I'd also like to add a comparison on the true role of elected officials compared to his perception.

I know that there are several paygrades separating a blue collar worker from our elected leaders, but respectfully, the analogy is a simple one to present and more apt than you think.

To people who have no loyalty to any party, their vote is similar to choosing a contractor to finish their kitchen. Some rules are similar.

1. We don't always hire the contractor who promises the lowest quote. We balance that against the perceives quality of the work.

2. We may like to continue to use a contractor who proved himself with good work at reasonable costs.

3. We may even forgive the occasional mistake of overbudget work based on previous goodwill.

4. We tend to empathize more with people who show they are humans and care for the wellbeing of the planet.

5. If the kitchen cabinets fall off the wall, we say enough screwups, let someone else fix the kitchen. This happened in 2008.

6. If the new contractors come in and start to overrun the budget we start wondering.

7. If the new contractors spend our money and force us to borrow more to pay for these things we get upset.

8. But after all the overspending, when we peek at the contractors work and see grand designs about pools or new roofs that is the last straw. That's when we know we hired the wrong guy. Again. The kitchen is the economy. Pool is healthcare. The roof is the EPA making co2 a pollutant.

I know Mr Dingell might take offense at this kind of comparison, an it is not meant to be insulting, but it is grounded in a reality that the royalty in Washington too easily ignore.

Posted by: mapledragon | January 23, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I live in this guy's district, and based on my interactions with his staff, it appears as though he is big on using our money to buy votes. The death panels are not explicitly in the bill, but it is clear that government beaurocrats will assess the cost vs benefits for all procedures. The public "option" sets up a slanted playing field with the intention of eliminating all other options, making it the ONLY option, and if you choose to opt out, you will have the prison health system.

Claims have been made that the Senate Bill will reduce the deficit, based on pitting 10 years of revenue against 7 years of cost, at best misleading and more appropriately fraud. And, this same money that will allegedly reduce the deficit will also be spent to keep the rapidly eroding Medicare program afloat.

The fact is that government programs are habitually jammed down the publics throught through calims of understated cost and oversttated benefits. I think that it used to be because of inept projections, but now it is deliberate and fraudulent. Mr. Dingell is clearly part of this culture.

For the sake of the contry, I hope the D' follow his advice and the R's in the Senate hold strong, this way the country will see how stupid the D's are with out the damage being done.

Posted by: twckwre | January 23, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

It was really hard to make it through this propaganda of an article. Dingell says Coakley ran a bad campaign, that it wasn't about health care. Has he read the Post's poll and others that said it was about health care, or is that too inconvenient for him? I mean, Brown ran on killing the health care bill. Dingell says the Republicans wouldn't participate. What a joke. Instead of starting at the center, they started with a bill that was too far left for even the democrats, a bill that is still too left for the country. Dingell took the seat from his father. Maybe it's time for voters to stop being sentimental and get away from dishonest people like this.

Posted by: josettes | January 23, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Sure, Dingles patient- he draws a great salary and gets benefits like all the rest of the do nothings. ALL 535 of them!
National referendum on suspenion of congressioanl pay and bebefits ASAP!

Posted by: crrobin | January 23, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Is this the Wa{p or Larry King Live? Exra, you're a hack, and a lame one at that....

Posted by: subframer | January 23, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Here we are once again, another Democrat saying it is the Republicans fault. Super majorities, in both the House and the Senate, and they were not smart enough to write a bill they could agree on and pass, so they blame the Republicans. It easy to understand the nation's frustrations with those in power. Those in power think the voters are fools, but we'll see who is fooling who come November.

Posted by: poppy11 | January 23, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, here are a few points in the analysis by your own paper regarding the poll done by your paper:

* "Nearly two-thirds of those who supported Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley said their vote was intended partly to show opposition to the Democratic agenda in Washington, including the health care overhaul."
* "Health care and the economy were cited as the most important issues."

Can you tell us why your paper's poll is not valid?

Posted by: josettes | January 23, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Poor Dingell . . . without a clue. Almost as stupid as Obama blaming the loss on George Bush. Even funnier is the press reporting it like it was the truth. Note to Dingell - um, no one is buying your blaming the Republicans when Democrats control the House and had a filibuster proof majority in their Senate caucus. Why does the Post even print such drivel.

Posted by: greendayer | January 23, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Congressman Stupak says Pelosi cannot get even 100 votes for the Senate package, yet Dingell cavalierly says "pass it." Perhaps the Speaker should clue him in.

Posted by: exguru | January 23, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

*It was really hard to make it through this propaganda of an article*

The fact that you have a hard time reading says more about you than about Dingell.

Posted by: tyromania | January 24, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, it was a good interview. I love it how people who have opinions that differ from our are "hacks".

Also, polls show that people do want healthcare reform--just not *this* healthcare reform, and probably not any healthcare reform that's big, sweeping, and it looks like it might drill a hole through their lives.

It's like when I tried to get a contractor to come do some tile in my bathroom, and they started telling me they were going to have to rip out the shower and tear up the closet and replace the toilet because I wanted some tile . . . I ended up doing the tile myself, and it worked out fine, without having to tear out the shower, as it turned out.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 24, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

This is surreal. It's like an exchange out of "Waiting for Godot." Or Abbott and Costello.

EK: My, but you're looking spectral, Congressman Dingell.
JD: Thanks. I think.
EK: We just lost Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Mass. That's like my mother calling me an ugly baby.
JD: I've heard
EK: The more exposure this bill and this process get, the more people are opposed. Which Republican lie would you say is most responsible for the decline in popularity?
JD: I wouldn't say it's becoming less popular. I'd say its appeal is becoming more selective.
EK: Following the Brown insanity, I feel awful. Devastated.
JD: Tell me about it. I've been in legislating for 55 years. This was my father's seat before me. So don't give me any of that "will of the people" crap.
EK: How are you in Congress holding up?
JD: Never better. It's those benighted idiots--
EK: Voters?
JD: Is there an echo in here? It's the idiots I'm worried about. They can't see how wonderful it will be to have someone else pay for their healthcare.
EK: Who?
JD: I just *said* "who." Someone else. But it's okay, because the people who already have insurance won't even notice. They'll be too pissed about the increases in their own premiums.
EK: Hit 'em with both barrels.
JD: And they'll get better coverage. Or be fined for not getting it.
EK: Serves 'em right. The special closed-door deal Pres. Obama worked out for unions didn't seem to strike a lot of people's fancy for some reason. What should we do?
JD: Redo the negotiations, but this time, televise it all! Let the people see for themselves what's going on. That'll fix those Republicans.
EK: Is there a sense that it's a wonderful bill with hidden greatness, or a secretly great bill with hidden wonderfulness? Simply put, could we just pass everything -- every tax, every regulation, every empty promise of government-driven efficiencies, every cut in doctor fees, every subsidy, every economic non sequitur -- in both bills and call it a day?
JD: Guy walks into a clothing store and says to the salesman, "What's the sale?" Salesman says, "Buy one suit and the second one is half off." Guy says, "Okay, give me the second one." So yeah, I don't see why not.
EK: Wow. If I were you and Pelosi and Waxman had thrown me under the bus to take over the Energy and Commerce Committee, I'd be hoppin mad. For a global warming denier, you're all right.
JD: Wait a second. I'm not Energy and Commerce Chair anymore? When did that happen?

Posted by: Imperfections | January 25, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

*Also, polls show that people do want healthcare reform--just not *this* healthcare reform, and probably not any healthcare reform that's big, sweeping, and it looks like it might drill a hole through their lives.*

Except that, as you may have noticed, if that was such a great idea, and so popular, how come the Republicans didn't do any of that during the 12 years they controlled congress? It's because they are against health care reform *on principle*. So the incremental changes aren't supported any more than the sweeping ones, and the incremental changes (restrictions on denial for pre-existing conditions, etc.) don't work for the system unless you make some systemic changes.

As a counter-example to your tile story, I was looked at a house for sale in which the kitchen, for whatever reason, was in the basement. This may have made sense at the time, but the truth was that if I wanted to live there, a *lot* of stuff was going to have to be removed and reconstructed, while still keeping within the overall structure of the house. But for someone to walk in and say, "it's perfectly fine to live with the kitchen in the basement" is, really, just crazy talk.

Posted by: constans | January 25, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Wow, who know that an interview with John Dingell would be such potent bait for trolls?

Posted by: etdean1 | January 25, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

constans: How dare you say Republicans did nothing? Healthcare Savings Accounts? Hmm? Problem was fixed, right there. ;)

I'm kidding. Just in case that's not clear.

I'm not sure all the Republicans are opposed to any kind of healthcare reform on principle--some would really like to see tort reform, competition across state lines, etc. They signed off on expanding prescription drug benefits, for good or for ill. Some went along with expanding S-CHIP. I think the size of this thing really helped to kill it.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think scope matters. If a little less political capital was expended on a more modest expansion of existing programs, I don't think you would have seen the lockstep opposition you have. Olympia Snowe? Yeah, she would have voted for a Medicare buy-in. If that's all there was.

I take your point about the kitchen being in the basement. I just don't think you'll have that hard a time getting a consensus to agree that the kitchen should not be in the basement, and something needs to be done. But there will be disagreement about the right approach.

There are going be disagreements on principle. And, if the bill is really sweeping (good or not) it will make a great target for opposition, where a more modest but useful proposal would make less of a target. It would be a lot harder to take a 14 page expansion of Medicare out of context and fill it with death-panels and imprisonment for not buying Obamacare insurance, etc. And Republicans would not be in lockstep opposition to healthcare reform without the coverage of 2000 pages of often ambiguous, frequently changing language. "I can't support that, it puts ordinary American's in jail for not buying insurance! There are death panels! It'll pay for abortions and euthanasia!"

Two separate expansions of Medicare and S-CHIP and maybe some funded Medicaid mandates would have gone a long way to covering a lot of people, without leaving the process so open to opposition and sabotage I'd be prone to call in criminally negligent. Certainly, it was politically negligent, if they were ever serious about increasing coverage. And expansions of S-CHIP and Medicare would bring us closer to single payer than the current bill does.

However, at this point, I think the Republicans are going to oppose anything at all. The Democrats could scrap the current bill, and come up with a healthcare bill that was all malpractice reform and allowed insurance company to sell across state lines and healthcare savings accounts, and the Republicans would find a reason to object. So, the point is moot, now.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 25, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

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