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The Democrats' options

The Jons (Chait, Cohn) aren't too sold on the idea of pushing a slimmer, leaner bill through reconciliation. Nor am I, to be honest. But as I see it, there are two strategies that Democrats should be entertaining right now.

Ignore Massachusetts: Coakley's loss to Brown was a fluke. She was a terrible candidate who did a worse-than-terrible job. That's not to minimize Brown's political achievement here, but when your nominee for Senate in Massachusetts keeps insulting the Red Sox and mocking the idea that she'd shake hands with voters, you're not dealing with an ordinary election.

In this telling, Massachusetts isn't a referendum on health-care reform. And given that a lot of the controversy over this bill has come from months and months of it being lied about (remember death panels?), it's a bit odd to argue that any special election could be a referendum on a bill that voters don't understand. As it is, both the House and the Senate judged their bills good enough to pass and strong enough to defend. They should stick to that judgment, pass the Senate bill, make some minor changes through the reconciliation process, and step out into the bright sunlight of actually getting something done once in awhile. This is, I think, the best approach: It's the quickest, the cleanest, and it results in the best policy. It's also the approach most likely to work.

Bow to the narrative: But you could also argue that the bill really is so fatally compromised by the deals and the lies and the ads and the arguments that you need to start over. In that case, I think Democrats should just draw up something clean and simple and move on it quickly. People can at least understand Medicare buy-in and Medicaid expansion. And both ideas work in reconciliation. If you're going to retreat in the face of Massachusetts, at least retreat to ground you can defend, and that might be worth keeping.

Then there are the two options they seem to be considering which they shouldn't be considering.

Pare the bill back: For reasons I outlined earlier, this makes no sense. If you want a smaller, leaner bill, you can't build it out of this bill, which needs its component parts in order to function effectively. The idea to just, say, regulate insurers is the same as saying, "Let's raise premiums and see what happens." That may be popular in the short-term, but Democrats will have no credibility on this issue if the reform bill they passed turns out to make everything worse.

Abandon ship: Letting this process die is, of course, the worst of all worlds. Democrats have 59 votes in the Senate and almost 260 votes in the House. They brought their bill to the one-yard line before Scott Brown forced a fumble. Proving yourself unable to govern in that scenario is proving yourself unable to govern. Moreover, it would be staggeringly cruel to the people that this bill is meant to help, and who need this bill's help. Covering 30 million and protecting countless millions more is not just a talking point. It's the reason for this whole enterprise. To abandon those people because Brown won in Massachusetts is simply indecent, and would prove the Democratic Party worse than ineffective. It would prove the party unconcerned.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 21, 2010; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Goldman/Exxon 2012


Tell me again, what's the name of that river in Egypt...?

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | January 21, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Wake up, Ezra. I said before she lost that the Dems would give up. They have, and they aren't coming back. And they will be CRUSHED in Nov. We should get used to it -- no more fantasies.

Posted by: AZProgressive | January 21, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Gotta say Ezra I'm really impressed with your take on this situation over the last few days. Your willingness to go there - to say the party is doing something unforgivable and indefensible by retreating in the face of the loss in Massachusetts - increases my respect for you immeasurably. Thanks.

Posted by: randrewm | January 21, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

The smartest thing the Democrats can do is option #1: Ignore Massachusetts. In one Coakley add, she spelled the name of the state wrong. She was not a good candidate. And you can't win independents back by caving at this point, you can only alienate the base.

And the Democrats may not be crushed on election day. Where's the Contract with America from the Republicans? Where's the strategy to nationalize the election in November? It's not there. Failing that, it comes down to each candidate, in each race.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

As i stated in a previous post, killing the current bill "is the biggest no brainer in the history of earth." I have a hard time not hurting myself laughing at your preferred suggestion to 'ignore MA'. When you come back to reality, let us know.

The question gets down to how bi-partisan the Ds want to be. Is the approach to pick off the 1 or 2 moderate Rs needed to pass a Democratic bill (as has been the current model)? Or is it to acutally create bi-partisan legislation with R input (assuming the Rs are also willing - granted a big assumption)?

The best policy and the best thing for the country is to actually attempt bi-partisan solutions to the problems that actually exist. To think that Ds have the monopoly on solutions is crazy at best, delusional at worst. The problem with this is the thought that many Rs will not be, after MA, motivated to be helpful. But I think this is where the problem with liberals views of conservatives comes into play. Rs have learned (or at least the R base has) that there needs to be ideas behind the rhetoric. Come November, if the Rs have not put anything on the table, they will have a hard time getting elected as simply the party of no. So there may be more of a willingness than one might think for a true bi-partisan approach.

Or we can just replay this whole healthcare scenario ad nauseum, calling it Health Care Lite...

Posted by: amaranthpa | January 21, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

The polls are very clear. Americans do not support a mandate without a public option. If Congress wants to continue to defy the will of the people, they will pay a price.

Posted by: bmull | January 21, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse


Are you a journalist, or a paid mouthpiece for the Democratic Party? I'm starting to wonder if there's a difference anymore.

Posted by: WildBill1 | January 21, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

As a mass voter the only reason I and a lot of people voted for brown was to kill this bill. It didn't matter who brown was running against. If brown didn't commit to being the 41st vote against HRC he never would have one. The sooner dems see this the better. The base can't win you a election, indies do and they hate this bill.

Posted by: obrier2 | January 21, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The polls are very clear: Americans do not like this bill (for whatever reason).
Why would any one want or expect Congress to pay a bill people don't want???

Posted by: MarkatWash | January 21, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

President and Congressional Dems have opted for 'Abandon Ship' alternative. Of course, they are politicians, they are never going to say it. But that is what we need to understand.

Here is the thing I am now interested in:

1. On personal level stop all the ongoing contributions I make for Dem party. Try convince so others too.

2. We will need that money to start putting Primary Challenges in days to come - to establishment Dem candidates. Few of the primary challenges I am hoping we should put with the help of Daily Kos, Act Now, Move On Org, Huffington Post and Firedoglake and all other Lefty Netroots are: Sen. Reid's district and all others who have caved in. Even Nancy Pelosi is not off the chart! Time for Netroots to come together now that GOP have finally got their 'internet' act together and battle lines are getting drawn up.

3. All the primary challenges of 2010 will need to finally culminate in Primary challenge to Barack Obama in 2012 Dem nomination. It is 'blasphemy' to speak so, but I am doing that. We will trace Ted Kennedy path and defeat of Obama to GOP like Carter. That is in inevitable in some sense. But by then 'whimper' faction of Democratic party will be purged for good.

4. Candidates to challenge Obama in Primary? Let us dust up that old worrier called Howard Dean. Let us dress Russ Finegold if that works. Otherwise how about more radical - Paul Krugman? This is America, anything is possible. As Geroge Will commented, a start up called Barack Obama went IPO, why not then another start up called Krugman? Don't tell that to me, in Silicon Valley that is what we do for living.

5. Anyone who wants to laugh at all these speculations should look at a person called Scot Brown, newly minted MA Senator. So 'change' is not the monopoly of one Barack Obama. Americans need it and we have to keep trying that since we know established Democrats are giving up serving those who voted them in the first place.

Posted by: umesh409 | January 21, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

The health care bill will expand coverage and protect consumers. Maybe Democrats should start explaining the benefits of it, and reporters/TV analysts should at least hear them out. Republicans can't criticize the bill without resorting to dishonesty. Democrats should just pass the legislation. The lunatic right-wing fringe will find something else to foam at the mouth over within weeks.

Posted by: johnc_80 | January 21, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

This is retarded. Ignore Mass. Ignore New Jersey. Ignore Virginia. Run further left by foisting Medicaid expansion on the states (to give health care to people who don't work and don't vote) and saddling the government with trillions in debt by expanding Medicare to the Disco generation.

Pelosi should be forced to resign, Rahm Emanuel should be fired, and Henry Waxman stripped of his Committee assignments. Let the Left scream. The only reason they're 'in charge' is because a third of them got behind invading Iraq.

Posted by: ninja_exterminator | January 21, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

There is a 4th option: take the House and Senate bills to a House-Senate conference committee, and work on it for a while...a long while, like the rest of the year, stretching past the November elections. There's going to be a lame-duck session to consider the proposals of the deficit-reduction commission, which Congress has to accept or reject. So pass health care "reform" in the lame duck session and hope people forget about it by 2012

Posted by: edwardallen54 | January 21, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

On stopping individual contributions to the Democratic party: that won't be hard. When folks feel abandoned by their party, and their party comes calling, they don't give.

I've been called dozens of times by the RNC, giving me all the super-conservative talking points a Republican in a red state like mine is supposed to want to hear--and they haven't gotten a dime out of me.

And nothing I've seen is going to change that.

The Republicans haven't proven them either conservative enough, or competent enough, to earn my money, and donations to the RNC have been hurting for years.

I expect you'll see the DNC suffering the same troubles over the next election cycle or two.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Man, so much wrong in these comments. WildBill1, Ezra specifically says that Democrats are now considering only the two stupidest options they have, and you call him a shill? Pay attention. edwardallen54, why would the Republicans not filibuster a lame duck bill? You can't attach the whole thing to a deficit reduction package from an independent committee. Amaranthpa, the Republican party is AGAINST healthcare reform. They (very wrongly) think that we have the best system in the world. They could have been a full partner in the current bill if they were willing, and extracted many concessions, but they didn't. And they are so clearly the Party of No by this point that you must be blind not to notice it.

Posted by: Chris_O | January 21, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Remember folks, this is the guy who said Lieberman is responsible for killing thousands of people. Partisan much Ezra?

I just hope that the Looney left in control see things the way you do, and "ignore" the outcome of the Mass. elections. This would mean that we would have a new house speaker, and I can't think of too many more things that would give me such trivial pleasure than seeing that happen.

Please, ignore Mass. and move more to the left, with this insane idea of adding the Medicare buyin.

Sure, why not? I mean it isn't as if Medicare isn't about to go bankrupt as it is, and it isn't as if that many hospitals are about to go under because of the current Medicare system, so let's just burden the States even more so.

Posted by: Magox | January 21, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"When you come back to reality, let us know...[I]s it to acutally create bi-partisan legislation with R input (assuming the Rs are also willing - granted a big assumption)?"

Looks like the imbeciles are out in force today.

Posted by: antontuffnell | January 21, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans really did miss a great opportunity to advocate for the kind of healthcare reform conservatives support--getting the government (Federal and state) out of managing what kind of policies companies can sell, allowing for competition across state lines, and tort reform. Either there could have been compromise on these issues or, more likely, no compromise, but it would have appeared that the Republicans were, in good faith, trying to address the issue.

As it is, it only looks like the Republicans stood there and said: "No!" Which is all right, if you don't support any of the Democrat's HCR, as far as it goes. But it doesn't go very far.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone else noticed that all comments in opposition to moving forward with health care reform are nothing more than "kill the bill" or "fire Pelosi"? Not one constructive comment addressing the problem. Please, let me find just one Republican or even just one [pathetic, I can't decide] independent who is smart enough to offer something more than "no".

Posted by: tradeczar | January 21, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

"Looks like the imbeciles are out in force today."

Just curious, but what does that add to the dialog?

It's sort of the comment thread version of making a large raspberry sound when you see something you don't like, and spitting on the people around you.

Wait a second. What did *that* add to the dialog? I sense a vicious circle coming on . . .

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 21, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it true that some 8.4 million uninsured Americans are making $50,000 to $74,999, and 9.1 million more are making more than $75,000?

For people who are young and/or healthy, health insurance is not a win-win deal. It may be more costly than its benefits. So they do not get it. I myself am in favor of both the public option and a single payer system, but I do see the Democrats doing a lot of lying and distortion (as of course are the Republicans).

At some stage, I hope the US will get a health care system which is sane, but ramming the current, defective bill through Congress is not the way and anyway, Pelosi says she cannot do it.

Posted by: rohitcuny | January 21, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans could have definitely gotten tort reform if even a few of them had said they'd sign onto a bill that included it. Selling policies across state lines would not have been acceptable if it let insurance companies do what credit card companies did and flee to the laxest states to escape regulation, but if it meant something else, that might be acceptable too. But alas, "No!" carried the day.

Posted by: Chris_O | January 21, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Reconciliation can achieve insurance reform: just tax cherry-picking and the other abuses prohibitively, and grant an exemption from the tax to those carriers whose policies and practices conform to a set of anti-cherry picking criteria. Add the Medicaid expansion and Medicare-for-anyone and you have comprehensive health care reform in a reconciliation bottle. Surely 50 senate votes and 218 house votes can be found to achieve this.

Posted by: tmakeig | January 21, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

So the democrats are going the reconciliation course to do a carve out for their union special interests?

Are they insane?

California, Missouri, New York, New Mexico, Colorado, Connecticut and all the rest will vote republican if the democrats are so stupid to exempt another special interest from a bill they tell us is so wonderful but we are too stupid to understand.

No amount of BS can cover the lobbyist fingerprints all over the Democrats' plan.

No more exemptions.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | January 21, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Interested in the Massachusetts special election (or President Obama’s first year in office]? These issues and other important questions regarding politics and the black community are the topic of discussion on the PBS show Basic Black, which you can watch tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 p.m EST LIVE at or on channel 2 in Boston. You can also participate in a live chat at starting at 4 pm

Posted by: MardeniWGBH | January 21, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans can't criticize the bill without resorting to dishonesty. Democrats should just pass the legislation."

point 1, yes they can, like so:
a. The Senate bill gives special breaks to states like Nebraska, Montana and Louisiana which will cost me (a Maryland resident) significantly more. There was no reason for those special breaks, except to buy the votes of three Senators. (Criticism of the bill; honest; direct. Your response? And by the way, this argument was one of the biggest single reasons Mass voters supported Brown - having voted to tax themselves for state HCR - Brown supported that and voted for it, and Governor Romney (R) signed it, btw - they don't want to be taxed again to pay for Sens. Nelson, Landrieu and Baucus.)

b. The bill will not be understood. No one fully understands the implications of either the current House or Senate bill. A compromise, committee-generated bill will be worse. (You may assert that there is indeed one person who can truly explain every word on every page of each bill, but I haven't found that person yet.)

As for "just pass the legislation" - um, they CAN'T right now, unless the House just passes the Senate bill without changing a comma.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | January 21, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Go ahead and pass the bill. Future Republican legislators will thank you.

Talking to my twenty something kids and their friends, I know that they are clueless as to what this bill means to them. They will get a clue when the mandates arrive in the mail.

There is nothing that could cement a Republican future like alienating the young.

Posted by: edbyronadams | January 21, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

As a democrat the clear message I see is that we have not accomplished enough. THe healthcare bill should have been done months ago. We could be working on jobs programs now.

I hope that the insane House will take a deep breath adn pass the senate bill. Give the president a win now so that we can all survive the Nov elections. When people find out what they get in the bill it will be a benefit to run on it.

Also, stop deluding yourselves about the republicans. Use whatever tactics to get this and other progressive initiatives through as quickly as possible. Take a page from the republicans who do this so well (remember newt G. and the first 100 days)

Posted by: tdilling1 | January 21, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

When will you libs wake up? With Pelosi punting this back to the Senate, the bill is effectively dead. Besides they have no time for Health Care 2.0 with the election barely nine months away, they need to move to jobs ASAP. Do something now and hope the jobs number improve by Spring. By Summer it will be too late and both the House and Senate will be at risk. Obama will be a lame duck president after that.

As a matter of fact if the unemployment numbers start moving up, expect pure panic for the Dems. Obama will have no choice but to throw his econ team under the bus. And then pray.

By the way by electing a president with no executive and little legislative experience you guys have no one to blame but yourselves. His lack of experience comes through in spades with this fiasco.

Posted by: barrylarryandtimmy | January 21, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised I haven't heard this more:
"I dare you to switch your vote"

Ask Senator Nelson what his approval rating is in Nebraska. The liberals he isolated while getting his kickback despise him, and the conservatives he incensed by switching his vote aren't going to support his re-election.

Switch your vote, one way or the other, and you can expect about 15% of the vote in the next election.

Stick to your guns, Democrats. Don't you understand that your spinelessness is why both your supporters and opponents hate you?

Posted by: imherefortheezra | January 21, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

A sensible approach to health care reform would have to include tort reform. A lot of the high costs of medical treatment in this country stem from the 'defensive medicine' games that health professionals have to play out of fear of being sued. Instead, they should be focused on the health of their patients. But tort reform will never happen with this Congress so long as Democrats aren't willing to alienate a key constituency of theirs, trial lawyers.

Only when Democrats stop catering to these special interest groups while crafting their legislation will independents believe they are serious about health care reform.

Posted by: cocktails42 | January 21, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

the demorcatics do have another option. As Ezra said the election was a fluke and demorcratics do have half the vote. they can change the bill or work with massachusetts to settle a bill that will establish something or at least write a bii that does not waste half of our countries fortune.

Posted by: smartypants1 | January 21, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

This is exactly the thought process that puts the Republicans back into the drivers seat this coming November.

Be non-transparent - cater to special interests like unions and trial lawyers - use the IRS to bludgeon younger taxpayers - ignore the obvious disaffection with the bill in either form.

How can such a bright man be so tone-deaf?

Posted by: dave411 | January 21, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

There is another option. Go to the Republicans and ask what they want in a bill, actually write in portions of what they want, and get some of what you want.

Won't happen. This has been an in-your-face exercise from the start. The ideas of tort reform, the ability to carry an insurance policy across state lines - both very reasonable Republican ideas - both derided and ignored.

Ezra, if you spit, you had better be sure which way the wind is blowing.

Posted by: GuyThompto1 | January 21, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

No seat is safe. Dems don't accept that explanation from Massachusetts, but they ignore it to their own demise. Press on Nancy and get all of your people trampled next November.

Posted by: delusional1 | January 21, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

It is absolutely amazing that the left and the Democrats simply refuse to believe that the American public doesn't want this bill. Instead we get lectures about how the will of the people must be ignored because it would be too terrible for the Democrats politically to not do something.

And what would any left wing blog post be without the condescending assertion that people don't support this bill because they don't understand it. Because obviously 25 year olds who work for the Washington Post are the only individuals brilliant enough to grasp its subtleties.

The arrogance of trying to rework the entire health care system via reconciliation, which is essentially the same exact thing as trying to rush the bill through before Brown is seated, is absolutely staggering. November 2010 can't come soon enough to boot these jerks, whose ears are obviously filled with wax, from office.

Posted by: Bob65 | January 21, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I like what is behind door number two the best. (Of the bad options.) I don't think we simply abandon ship, but the message is pretty clear that if we persist in this particular bill, we will lose the congress in 2010 and probably the presidency in 2012, and then the Republicans just go and either repeal or defund health care reform and we lose everything.

I think if Obama is wise (and if all of us whose support he needs now and as we go forward are patient), he will pause and recalibrate this. Again, show the people that we can do something (not just pass something, but pass something that does something right now) that has tangible and visible results.

Roosevelt had the NRA, the CCC, the WPA that gave the country a sense of forward movement and then was able to establish trust in government's effectiveness and do social security and other things. We didn't do that early last year. The stimulus has disappeared without a trace and the credit card bill still hasn't kicked in and the natural suspicion people have of government has. I'll say it again. The dogs don't like the dog food, no matter how good we think it is for them.

Posted by: rvanwye54 | January 21, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"Covering 30 million and protecting countless millions more is not just a talking point. It's the reason for this whole enterprise,"

Because, evidently, there is no other way to accomplish that goal than using parliamentary maneuvers to ram through a bill that nobody wants because it is so terrible.

Posted by: Bob65 | January 21, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"it's a bit odd to argue that any special election could be a referendum on a bill that voters don't understand"

Actually it's a referendum on the fact that voters, not to mention congress itself, could not possibly understand a bill that huge.

Brown's right: let each state create its own version of universal health care, and use federal resources to make it work. That's exactly what we do for food, housing, and education, and it works well.

Posted by: pparrydc | January 21, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse


" .. Democrats will have no credibility on this issue if the reform bill they passed turns out to make everything worse .."

1. Kid, the STEAL-O-CRATS have no credibility with taxpayers.

2. STEAL-O-CRATS are a walking group of FUBARs/SNAFUs -- they are DEATH PANELS!

Give up and go back to taking orders from bureaucrats. It is God's miracle you STEAL-O-CRATS don't wet yourselves.

Posted by: russpoter | January 21, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse


Hey kid -- about this LIE --

" .. Some Democrats in Congress could use a refresher on the stakes in health-care reform. According to a study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, 45,000 people die a year because they lack health insurance."

Kid, since you obviously can't report worth a crap -- author Steffie and her co-author husband Himmelstein are the founders of MDs for Single Payer.

WOW! That makes them cool, objective analysts!


They have so little credibility, even the NYTimes went after them.

You obviously are so biased, you run this cr*p without thinking. I notified the ombudsman yesterday about you and Himmelstein. I'm going to do it again, now.

WaPo readers deserve better than a STEAL-O-CRAT PR flack.

Posted by: russpoter | January 21, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

After reading a number of analyses from highly educated members of the elite media establishment, yours is the most disconnected from reality I have found. I really enjoyed it. People like you are the reason the Washington Post and the New York Times are slowly going out of business. I mean, really, this was Ted Kennedy's seat. A well trained labroader retreiver should have beat Brown in a landslide. It's a fluke you say? Most of Coakley's gaffes came after Brown had already closed the gap and opened up a lead. People voted for him because they are disgusted with what they have witnessed in Washington over the last year-- a wasteful big government completely out of control. I hope the Dems take your advice though. You should think about a new career as a political advisor!

Posted by: readerchevychase | January 21, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

The bizarreness of the House Democrats' behavior in refusing to pass the Senate bill can hardly be overstated. They have a huge majority in the House and are one simple vote away from passing the most significant social legislation in many generations. And now that they are within a hair's breadth an earth-shaking legislative victory, Pelosi and Obama go on TV with some apologetic, defeatist gibberish? Are they completely losing it?

Posted by: opinionpieces | January 21, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Pass the bill. Once the bill passes, the focus will turn to the actual substance of the bill "what changes" and "what's in it for me." The bill opponents won't be able to spread the fear and the lies as easily without hundreds of millions of anti-health care dollars and soon the conservative spin machine will ramp up the fear factor on some other issue of the day. This is the time to take action; not the time to hide behind closed doors because a bad Democratic candidate lost a special election.

Posted by: danimal1 | January 21, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Yes! That's the spirit, Ezra. Hopefully, the dems will listen and forge ahead with their bill. Americans are stupid. They don't know what's in their best interests. That's why they need dems to manage their lives for them.

Damn the polls! Damn the voters! Full speed ahead!

And, see you in November. : )

Posted by: grohlik | January 21, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Klein and other Obama apologists continue to try to scapegoat Ms. Coakley. Their criticisms of her increasingly seem to be sexist and reflect a denial of how unpopular Obama has become among a majority of independents.

The Senate bill is an overall bad bill, that has very few positive reforms. Pelosi and Democratic Representatives, if they foolishly choose to pass the Senate bill would be a sell-out to health insurance companies, and would probably result in Democrats losing or nearly losing control of the House of Representatives.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 21, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein refers to the lies that derailed the healthcare bill. I am a senior who will shortly become a Medicare recipient. I may well be misinformed. I may well be the victim of lies. But the Democrats who so freely toss about the term "lie" have failed to furnish people like me with the "truth".

They have represented that they will reduce Medicare costs by $500 billion without reducing Medicare benefits. They have represented that Seniors will be better served by this proposed legislation, trotting out provisions to close the drug benefit "donut hole". But they have utterly failed to explain where the savings will come from, what benefits will be like under the new plan and how patients will be able to access the doctors who have made it clear that they will refuse to accept Medicare patients in the future.

Perhaps if the Democrats would provide real information (you know, the truth) about what the program WILL be instead of vague "trust us" representations, the "lies" which are poisoning their legislation would disappear.

I would be much more inclined to accept Mr. Klein's idiotic conclusions if Mr. Klein could kindly do what legislators have been utterly unwilling to do -- describe in detail the before and after differences which will result for people like me from this legislation. In the absence of such explanations I will continue to assume that the Democrats' unwillingness to provide truthful and important details constitutes de facto prevarication.

Posted by: mrdon | January 21, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Option 5:

Trust bust the Too Big To Fail banks, jail most of the CEOs and CFOs that lied to shareOWNERs and make all execs of public companies subject to capitalist OWNERS of the firm getting a binding vote on exec pay.

I'll choose the pro-capitalist Option 5.

Posted by: WillSeattle | January 21, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I have a bright idea about health insurance: why not let people decide on their own if they want health insurance? Instead of a government mandate to take health insurance or face onorous fines, my idea would make it an individual decision by families if they want to be insured or not. I would certainly want to be among those insured, but those who do not want health insurance should not be forced to take it out. I think they are taking a gamble, but hey, it's a free country and it is up to every family to make these sort of tough decisions.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | January 21, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein the poeple of MA rejected backroom style non transparent special interest laden, politics that was culminated in the Obama/Pelosi/Reid healtcare reform bill.

To insinuate that the good people of MA are so stupid that they choose their politiians based on handshaking and a knowledge of baseball is again an elitist leftist liberals response to an election not going there way.

Maybe this sort of crap will fly in Cambirdge MA where priveledged professors, rich college kids living off daddy's money and other blow hard ivory tower radicals can get together, not work, and discuss some grandiose plan for America but the people that actually work for a living and have to pay the taxes that fund these grandiose plans how shall I say "are having none of it"

Obama was given a mandate to end back room deals and the culture of special interest in DC not not to pass a bloated mess of a healtchare reform bill that was the culmination of these things.

Democrats can dig in thier heels all they like but trying to shove down a horrible deficit busting reform bill will be worse to the democratic party than GW Bush and 6 years of war had been to the Republican party.

Wait till November

Posted by: acdminc | January 21, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Check out this satirical view of the Democratic Party. You don't know if you should laugh, cry or simply hang your head in shame: Copy and paste address

Posted by: thePoliticop | January 21, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you seem like a nice, young (naive) man. You are earnest in hoping for the best for everyone. But, my young friend, you need to spend some time OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY.

A. A signficant majority of Americans DO NOT want Obamacare.

B. These Americans are NOT STUPID. I know its fashionable among your young, hip, "cool" liberal friends to believe anyone who would oppose the nirvana promised by Barack, Harry, and Nancy must be "misinformed," led astray by "lies," etc. but I can assure you most of the opposition to this monstrosity comes from a thorough understanding of what it purports to do, and the huge costs attendant to its implementation. Not to mention the turnover to the government of a huge chunk of our economy. People DO UNDERSTAND the bill(s) and they don't like what they see.

All the talk about what "strategy" should be pursued to "get something" is baloney. There are things that need to be fixed. Start over, and fix things in order of importance, which I would rank as:

1) Medicare viability
2) Insurance reforms -- portability, pre existing, etc.
3) Insurance Competition --- due away with anti trust exemption, allow competition across states lines (will need to figure out how to supersede the conflicting state requirements to make this viable)
4) Tort Reform
5) Cover the uninsured

Bite off one or two a year. Actually include some Republican ideas.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | January 21, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

They have represented that they will reduce Medicare costs by $500 billion without reducing Medicare benefits. They have represented that Seniors will be better served by this proposed legislation, trotting out provisions to close the drug benefit "donut hole". But they have utterly failed to explain where the savings will come from, what benefits will be like under the new plan and how patients will be able to access the doctors who have made it clear that they will refuse to accept Medicare patients in the future.

Perhaps if the Democrats would provide real information (you know, the truth) about what the program WILL be instead of vague "trust us" representations, the "lies" which are poisoning their legislation would disappear.

I would be much more inclined to accept Mr. Klein's idiotic conclusions if Mr. Klein could kindly do what legislators have been utterly unwilling to do -- describe in detail the before and after differences which will result for people like me from this legislation. In the absence of such explanations I will continue to assume that the Democrats' unwillingness to provide truthful and important details constitutes de facto prevarication.

Posted by: mrdon | January 21, 2010 7:18 PM



You owe mrdon and the rest of us an answer to these questions. I'm willing to bet the house you can't answer even one...

I hope to see them in your next column...

Posted by: ernielayman581 | January 21, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

""must be "misinformed," led astray by "lies," etc. ""

Given that, in fact, most of those opposed to the health care reform plan were the ones screaming like rabid beasts about "death panels" and illegal immigrants, I can pretty assuredly say that the opposition was from both the misled and those who are active and unrepentant liars. Opposition was led by fringe extremists like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and Joe "You Lie!" Wilson-- people who represent a crazy faction.

Next, since I see you put "cover the uninsured" _last_ on your list below "tort reform," I can also tell that your ideas are worthless and worthy of being ignored. Thanks for playing!

Posted by: tyromania | January 21, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Two comments:

Medicare: Interesting how Republicans now defend that very institution they have been so ideologically opposed to. Don't buy it people: they are starving the beast. Detestable.

Obstruction: I don't believe for a second Republicans are going to help pass any bill. They will dangle carrots in front of Democratic donkeys until D's walk themselves right off a cliff.

So what are we left with?

Republicans are fear-mongering obstructionists and Democrats are nansy pansy sissies and the Supreme Court just put the country in the hands of our noble corporations, as if it weren't already.

I give up.

Posted by: paul37 | January 21, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

"Opposition was led by fringe extremists like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and Joe "You Lie!" Wilson-- people who represent a crazy faction."

Fair enough tyromania.

And who was led by Olberman and Maddow? A sane faction? Give me a break.

It would be nice if you and your party took a shot at winning the hearts and minds of the people who supported your president and have since abandoned him by simply reducing your utter dependence on applying every kind of vile invective to them and their motives and simply furnishing real and useful information to counter all of the "liars" out there.

Tell me. Tell me if you can (or if you dare) where the $500 billion was going to come out Medicare while at the same time making those of us who will depend on it better off. Not B.S., but cold hard numbers, cold hard facts and the "truth".

In the months that have passed while this legislation was gestating I have desperately sought real answers instead of "trust us" platitudes. I don't much care for liars. But I dislike people who cannot or will not furnish me with facts instead of factoids.

For another few months I will still be paying for 100% of my own health care. When I bought this very expensive coverage, my agent furnished me with an exact description of the benefits to which I would be entitled, who I could seek out for treatment and the limits of coverage. It does not seem unreasonable to me to expect my next insurance company (the government) to furnish me the same information before I "buy" that policy. My insurance agent did not rely on "trust me I'm a brilliant, honest Democrat". Why on earth should I buy my next policy from the cretins who won't even allow the light of day to shine on their legislative process?

Posted by: mrdon | January 21, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

I am an independant from Massachusetts, that is totally for a streamlined healthcare bill. I am lucky and well off by many peoples standards, but know good hard working people who are unemployed and have no health care. I can see their pain and feel if we can fight all of these suspect foreign wars, we should be able to provide health care for our indigent citizens. But I am not for Cadilac plans, Union plans, or other special interest plans which Lobbyist paid politicians command before they will agree to allow a streamlined bill to go forward. Having said all of that. It was a fascinating thing to watch on Tuesday in Massachusetts. The working poor and unemployed poor,the real beneficiaries of a healthcare plan, in large part did not vote. And Martha Coakley did not spend any time in the poor neighborhoods of Boston, Worcester and Springfield marshaling support from those who would recieve the most benefit. It was as if they believed that the rich liberals of Newton, Cambridge and similar towns would take care of it. Shame on Martha and shame on them. I walk the back streets of Boston on a regular basis. This phenominum is reminicient of the many times I have offered homeless people money for lunch and was refused. They wanted cigarettes, instead. It is a sad state of affairs, all the way around, and is the source of the independant voters outrage. The people you are trying to help, will not help themselves. The politicians are too dumb to understand the sources of the the voters outrage.The pols of both parties think we are stupid and only they know what is good for us. If Americans would only require politicians to accept the same retirement and medicare benefits that social security and Medicaid beneficiaries recieve, instead of the Rolls Royce benefits they get as members of Congress, things would be very different.

Posted by: msommerville | January 21, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to those electronic medical records that were supposed to create two million good paying jobs and also save enough money to eliminate the donut hole, and do the hard thing?

Posted by: horace1 | January 21, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Response to mrdon:

I appreciate your comment, at least you asked fair questions and raised valid points unlike many others who just seem to have ideological blinders on.

First we need to understand what is the problem before we can fix it. With the current health care system we have:
- 500,000 people going bankrupt every year due to medical expenses, most of these people have health care insurance
- 45,000 people dying every year due to lack of health care. I know 1 person personally.
- Medicare, which you are counting on, will be bankrupt in a few years. Just google for "medicare shortfall". Both my parents are on Medicare and we are all worried about its viability.
- Health care costs are rising at an incredible rate and for my company we have seen premiums increase 20%+ for each of last 3 years.

Now that we know what the problems are, we need to figure out the solution. The best thing is to see where these same problems have been solved already in countries similar to ours such as UK, Germany, Canada, Germany, Japan etc. which all provide universal healthcare with various types of systems ranging from govt providers+ govt payer system in UK to private provider + private payer system in Japan.

Of course, our system has to be unique to US. I believe the House and Senate plans all address the above issues to most extent but not fully. Either one of them is a start, not an end. But the key thing is a small start in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all to fix the problems.

To address your specific question about $500B reduction in Medicare costs, what I understand is that there is lot of waste in the system which can be controlled. A key reason for the public-option govt. run payer system is that, it is hoped, it can mandate prices for procedures that would force providers to be more efficient and so reduce costs.

I am no expert on this but I know that the system is broken. Everytime we try to solve a big problem there is always opposition from vested interests. It is our job, as citizens, to be informed and help educate our fellow citizens so we can do the right things for our country.

My friends, it is not a Republican or Democrat thing, we are all Americans. We all want the best for our families, friends and neighbors.

Posted by: ds42 | January 21, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

One way the Senate Democrats can cowboy up is to change the filibuster rule from 60 to 55 votes to move legislation along. Ironically, it would only take a majority vote to change the rule. It is ridiculous that a 59% majority can't move forward.

They can then jettison Lieberman and give a more robust explanation to the American people on what is really in their bills and counter the Republican lies.

Posted by: erik1 | January 21, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

ds42: A reasonable response. And as close to the likely truth as might be expected.

But that truth is not in any way consistent with the representations by Democrats that the cuts will not impact Senior benefits or that we will be better off (except in the possible context that Medicare will be on a sounder footing, albeit with reduced benefits).

I will become dependent on Medicare in just a few months. I deeply resent the representations by Obama and the rest of his Democrat supporters that my fears that my benefits and access to doctors will be reduced are simply unfounded, irrational, teabagger fears.

I am rational enough to understand that Medicare is facing bankruptcy and needs reforming -- maybe even reforming at my expense. But if that is what democrats mean when they say seniors will be better off, they should be honest. If they believe that reducing benefits and access to doctors is necessary to ensure the continuity of the program, let them say so and let the chips fall where they may. To represent outright (as Obama did repeatedly during the townhall meetings) or to even infer that people like me will not be adversely effected, in the absence of the details which they have been unwilling to furnish, is as dishonest as anything the "fringe right wing" is suggesting.

This rational, retired independent, with years of experience in business development and contract negotiations, is neither blind nor stupid. And neither are millions like me who have been called every name in the book by Obama and his supporters.

One heck of a way to change our hearts and minds -- wouldn't you say?

Posted by: mrdon | January 21, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely! Ignore Massachusetts, ignore Virginia, ignore New Jersey, ignore the August town hall meetings -- and while you're at it, ignore the voters, ignore the unemployed and ignore the housing meltdown. Tax, spend and regulate to your heart's content. Let us eat cake!

As Louis XV said, "Après moi le déluge."

King Obama and Queen Pelosi are fixing to make the aftermath of Katrina look like a desert . . .

Posted by: spamagnet987 | January 21, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

mrdon: The points you bring up remind me of my discussion with my father who is 73 and relies on Medicare. He too is deeply worried about this health care reform, although his skepticism has waned as he has learned more about the ramifications of doing what is being proposed vs not doing anything.

Your points are absolutely valid and concerns are completely justified.

I believe the proponents of the health care plan have proposed the $500B in Medicare costs savings based on efficiencies, reducing fraud, doing things better, using electronic medical records etc. to reduce need for unnecessary tests and so on so forth. So, as far as I know, there are no specific hidden cuts in benefits that are being kept secret.

Frankly, no one expects any politician is going to cut any benefits for Medicare if these savings don't materialize.

I think you and my parents need to worry more about Medicare shortfall forcing broad cuts in a few years rather than any direct impact of this health care plan. If anything this plan gives some hope, however small, of putting some caps on costs and so extending the viability of Medicare.

I just think it is a shame that our political process has become so toxic that we are unable to do anything to solve our problems.

If you look at an unemotional, reasonable way to see what we should be doing for health care, the current plans are about 80% there. Ideally, we need to add tort reform to it and then go from there and then refine it every year to make it better.

Posted by: ds42 | January 22, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Democrats and the White House need to propose a very limited health insurance reform bill that outlaws discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, eliminates lifetime limits and limits annual premium increases to inflation plus 2 percent.

It may not be viable long term and the insurance industry and its senators / congressmen will scream, but the bill will be very popular with the public. Dare Republicans to vote against it in today's populist environment.

Go back and pass a comprehensive fix after the election when Republicans and the industry know its in their interest to reach an overall, intelligent solution.

Posted by: LeapCastle | January 22, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Do Democrats really listen to Ezra Klein? What exactly has he done other than graduating from college and writing a blog?

Posted by: smc91 | January 22, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

mrdon, I share your concerns about reductions in Medicare spending adversely affecting the quality of health care for many people sixty-five and older. I am not yet in this group.

I do not think $50 billion a year can be reduced in Medicare spending without benefits either being reduced, fewer doctors or hospitals accepting Medicare patients or many people having higher out of pocket expenses. Who determines what are unnecessary medical tests or inefficient medical treatments? Are bureaucrats going to overrule the best medical opinions of doctors? I certainly hope not.

Then there is the independent Medicare commission which Obama and Senate Democrats want to give authority to try to force Congress to accept further significant reductions in Medicare spending. This is to say nothing of the deficit panel favored by some "moderate" Democrats, who probably would advocate more reductions in Medicare spending.

One of the big problems in this country is too many people want nice services from the government, but seem unwilling to pay higher taxes for them. Medicare could become solvent for decades and perhaps expanded to include basic dental coverage if the Medicare tax was doubled to 2.8% of income from employment. This seems more fair and morally acceptable, in my opinion, than reducing Medicare benefits.

There was an article at "The New York Times" website a couple months or so ago. The reporter writing the story stated the median annual income, from all sources, for persons sixty-five and older was less than $20,000. Reducing Medicare benefits for people who have been hard-working for so many years, most of whom have relatively modest incomes and financial assets, in my opinion, is highly immoral.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | January 22, 2010 4:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm thankful that the ill-informed, selfish, hateful lunatic right-wing fringers that post their vitriol on this blog aren't actually responsible for making policy (anymore).

I mean honestly, curmedgeon, health reform without universal coverage? Really? Don't say peep unless you've got the first idea about the economics of health care.

Posted by: imherefortheezra | January 22, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

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