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It's just you, Democrats

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There's been a lot about procedural impediments to moving forward on health-care reform: Can the Senate can pass a reconciliation bill before the House passes the Senate bill? Can Republicans delay reconciliation with amendments? Who should go first, House or Senate?

You all know I'm big on procedure. You've also noticed I'm not writing about this. I don't buy it. What Democrats can do is a lot less important than what they want to do. If 51 Democratic senators and 218 Democratic congresspeople are dead-serious about passing a bill, they can, and will, pass a bill. One of the two chambers will go first, and the other will go second. If that many Democrats were committed to this project, the other chamber won't fear their colleagues leaving them hanging out to dry. It's a fairly straightforward path to passage, and they'd begin walking down it. That they haven't moved is evidence that will is missing, not that the rules are too complex.

Similarly, I've not been posting day-by-day reports on the gyrations in Hill optimism. No one knows if this will pass right now. No one knows if it will die. The predictions of the players change hourly. But the facts are as they've always been. Democrats can pass this if they want to. The project now is not learning the Senate rules but steeling Democratic spines. I'm surprised that there's not been a letter signed by groups such as MoveOn.org and SEIU swearing they'll sit out the next election if Democrats let this opportunity pass them by. This is the closest this country has ever gotten to passing a universal health-care bill, and a critical mass of congressional Democrats have chosen this as the moment to freeze up. They need to be slapped back to reality.

In his column today, David Wessel takes a shot at doing exactly that. If you think passing this bill will be ugly and unpopular (and there's polling evidence that it won't be), then just wait, Wessel says, until you see what happens if you don't pass this bill.

The Urban Institute ran the do-nothing outcome through its computers, and offered three scenarios. In the best case, the number of uninsured rises to 57 million, or 20.1% of the population, from 49.1 million, or 18.4%, in 2009, most of them middle-income adults. More employers drop coverage as it grows more costly. The fraction of Americans on the government's Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program, now at 16.5%, would rise sharply to between 18.3% and 20.3% — and that's without the much-derided "public option."[...]

This year, Medicare and Medicaid will cost almost $725 billion, about 50% more than Congress appropriates for all domestic agencies from the National Park Service to K-12 school aid. In 2014, the cost is projected at $950 billion. Gulp!

Those are big numbers. So big, in fact, that they obscure millions of small tragedies. Children attending funerals that never needed to happen. Families losing homes they could've kept. People suffering chronic pain that we could've eased. Strained businesses turning to layoffs that didn't need to happen. Doctors diagnosing late-stage cancers that could have been caught while still curable.

At the end of “No Country for Old Men,” hit man Anton Chigurh offers Carla Jean a type of mercy. Rather than just kill her, he offers to let her flip a coin for her life. She refuses. "The coin don't have no say," she cries. "It's just you."

The procedure don't have no say, Democrats, or at least not much of one. At this point, it's just you.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 4, 2010; 4:38 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

A new report by CMS acutaries shows that state and federal governments will, collectively, account for over 50% of all health care spending in the U.S. by next year. This expenditure amounts to over 8% of GDP - approximately what other developed countries pay to cover all of their citizens.

Obama and the Dems should focus their efforts on controlling the cost of the half of spending already within their control. Apply your cost-saving bromides to Medicare, Medicaid and the VA and use the proceeds, if sucessful, to put these programs back on a sound fiscal footing and expand coverage to the uninsured incrementally. Let's see some proof of concepts. The government's stewardship of these programs to date hasn't earned it the trust of the American people.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 4, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I think Carla Jean died.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 4, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

"That they haven't moved is evidence that will is missing, not that the rules are too complex."

Exactly! A great way for anyone to help supply congressional Democrats with some will is to give a quick call to your representative's office. It's very easy and it really does count for something. Please find phone numbers, more info, and share your call at www.callcongressforhealthcare.com

Posted by: privacy3 | February 4, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,

It's good to see you jumping on the previously-laughable "Green Lantern theory" of Democratic ineffectiveness. For all the attention placed on procedural and structural issues, the fact of the matter is that the Democratic Party does not really WANT to pass health-care reform. That's important to understand, both to accomplish the increasingly unlikely goal of passing reform this year and to think about what needs to change in this party going forward.

Posted by: NS12345 | February 4, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

tbass1--"Obama and the Dems should focus their efforts on controlling the cost of the half of spending already within their control. Apply your cost-saving bromides to Medicare, Medicaid and the VA and use the proceeds, if sucessful, to put these programs back on a sound fiscal footing and expand coverage to the uninsured incrementally."

It doesn't work this way. There needs to be systemic change in how health care is delivered, or health care providers and services will gravitate to who can pay the most, ie the rich. Capitalism in health care at work. That is the great weakness of HCR right now. It expands coverage but only nibbles at cost control. Once everyone is in the system, systemic change can at least be considered because the costs of covering everyone under the current system is untenable. In fact, the more universal the coverage, the quicker the system will collapse, forcing the govt to deal with the cost problem. which in the end will be better for 95% of people.

Posted by: srw3 | February 4, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

great use of a No Country For Old Men scene!

Posted by: jfcarro | February 4, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

"SEIU swearing they'll sit out the next election"

Is that like sitting out the Cadillac tax...?

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | February 4, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

srw3,

Thanks for your reply. I don't think the government is doing a particularly good job with the half of the health care expenditures already within its control so I'm disinclined to support giving it more control of the other half.

And I disagree with the suggestion that the government is powerless to control costs unless it has control of everything. The government exerts considerable influence even on the "private" half of the health care system through its myriad regulations and monopsony power. If our current health care system is disfunctional the government, as the dominant payer and regulator, bears most of the blame, IMO.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 4, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

NS12345, there's a difference between "not wanting" to pass healthcare reform and not having "the will" to do it. I think it's much more likely that Democrats are too spineless to put their necks on the line for a politically sensitive/controversial bill than that they secretly don't want to pass the bill for some ulterior reason. It's not a conspiracy (if you're even implying that, and you might not be), it's a question of being too afraid to lose an election.

Posted by: MosBen | February 4, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

crap, Ezra, that was well said!

Posted by: keilprti1 | February 4, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Really smart = Pass the bill.

Really stupid = Don't pass the bill.

Completely moronic & suicidal = Don't pass the bill, while the President continues to publicly stress how important it is to pass the bill.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 4, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I hope the current legislation does not pass and that it's failure leads to a thourogh house cleaning of congress. Then maybe Obama will actually listen to some of the Republican ideas and we can get real reform.

Posted by: cummije5 | February 4, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

"Then maybe Obama will actually listen to some of the Republican ideas and we can get real reform."
Posted by: cummije5


Because the "Republican ideas" on affordable health care and other issues proved so very successful when they were in power. Who among us isn't nostalgiac for the Bush years when things went so well?

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 4, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,
I've been active in community organizing for health care reform and I support the current bill. (I have been tearing my hair out over the delay.)

I am interested in whether you think I am being unfair in the following:

I am outraged by the silence of the press about the toll of death and suffering as a result of our 'system'. I've known 2 people who died because they lacked health care. Several of the people I know (dead, crippled) were entrepreneurs who were trying to create jobs for this country. I do not understand why it seems to be equivalent to a breach of etiquette to bring this up, to be angry about it, to confront the denial in this country about this savagery and - yes - killing.

I don't think the Dems want to upset voters. What is supposed to motivate change then? Journalists face unemployment and lack of health insurance in huge numbers - what accounts for their strange discretion on this subject?

I am sure you know the studies, a recent one found that 45K Americans die every year as a result of lack of health insurance.
(link http://pnhp.org/excessdeaths/health-insurance-and-mortality-in-US-adults.pdf)
That means that if we wait another 16 years 745K Americans will DIE. Why is there silence on this? Am I the only one who can add?

I've argued this out on blogs and I've found incredible ignorance out there. I have links to all the studies and I can show people exactly where and how to find out how those tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, die. The ignorance is unconscionable, but it is facilitated by the pols and the press.

The other thing I see is the amazing wimpiness of the American people. Their lack of indignation on their own behalf is disturbing. As I said, I've organized with folks in my neighborhood and the trembling voices of those who have suffered, who face death from untreated illness, goes NOWHERE, it simply turns into isolated victimization and suffering and death.

No wonder the Republicans eat us alive. It's as if we simply accept that we are trash and deserve no better.

When I tried to tell my neighborhood group that we should stage "die-ins" to dramatize the stakes, they didn't even understand what I was talking about. Even after I explained it. It's like they wanted a pat on the head but they had no fire in the belly to fight on their own behalf.

What is the matter with this country?

Posted by: mminka | February 4, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

The problem is the Senate. Pure and simple. Democrats in the House passed the better bill. The "lack of will" as you describe it is not Democratic lack of will; it's Senate Democrats that are killing health insurance reform. Namely: Joe Lieberman and Republicans.

Posted by: NealB1 | February 4, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Republicans and Democrats are only interested in getting money from Business. anything else they do is just for the show. Here the Democrats want to screw everyone with a mandate to pay to the Insurance companies and Pharma, et al. in this bill.

when there is real reform, the public will respond. Until then we all know what a scam this "health" bill is. A sorry excuse for us and a giveaway to Corporations.

we spend over $7000. a year per person in health subsidies to the Insurance companies. and it shows. that's why we still have something like 46 million uninsured. We are 37th in health care when compared to the rest of the world. Even Costa Rica has a better health system than we do... hint, Business is the "death Panel" here in America, you betcha!! honey!!

After all Business is in the business of screwing Americans.

just follow the money. Medicaire for all!!!

Posted by: BernardEckholdt | February 4, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

tbass1, I wrote a long reply to your post but for some reason it is being filtered by Ezra et al. Shorter version: You said "And I disagree with the suggestion that the government is powerless to control costs unless it has control of everything. The government exerts considerable influence even on the "private" half of the health care system through its myriad regulations and monopsony power. If our current health care system is disfunctional the government, as the dominant payer and regulator, bears most of the blame, IMO."

In fact, HCR give govt the tools to reform regulations that contribute to the dysfunctional system that we have now, without "taking over health care." The one system that the govt does control, the VA is the most cost effective, non-discriminatory, health care network in the US. But conservatives would never allow this kind of delivery system to be copied for the public at large. Medicare has lower costs and higher patient satisfaction than private insurers (Medicare came into existence because insurers couldn't make money providing insurance to old poor people.) But conservatives wouldn't allow a medicare for all (robust public option) to be in the senate version of HCR. What HCR is left with is improving access to health insurance by increasing the risk pool (the dreaded mandate) and getting rid of the worst abuses that insurers currently inflict on their customers (rescission, exclusion on the basis of preexisting contidions, overcharging high risk folks, etc.) It doesn't deal with the explosion of costs because conservatives oppose every cost control measure that dems have suggested.

Posted by: srw3 | February 4, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

"No wonder the Republicans eat us alive. It's as if we simply accept that we are trash and deserve no better.

...

What is the matter with this country?"
Posted by: mminka

I share your frustration. All Democrats that I know think that universal health coverage is the right thing to do, because it is scandalous that anyone is denied health care in the richest country in the world. The humanitarian argument always comes first.

But Democratic politicians have endured decades of the stereotype of the "bleeding heart liberal," and as a result they now always seem to overcompensate. They will talk about the injustice of insurance companies denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, annual and lifetime caps, etc., but even then it always seems to be an argument about "fairness" and not about the suffering of those who are denied care.

Similarly, there is so little political discourse about eradicating poverty in these times, and I think the reason for that is the same. Caring aloud about the sick and about poor people is insufficiently "macho" for a politician in the modern era.

There have been many mistakes in the HCR political process over this last year. I think one of those mistakes was shying away from placing the consequences of no coverage (illness, suffering, and death) front and center. The other arguments about bending the cost curve and reducing deficits are also valid and important reasons why it ought to pass. But the best argument should always be that on humanitarian grounds we should not find it acceptable to be the only industrialized nation where disadvantaged citizens have no guarantee of access to basic necessary medical care.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 4, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Dems thinking - "anyways people are dying today so what is new in that? Don't blame us for 'inaction'. This is not the problem only for 111th Congress."

Because I believe the way our Congress conducts the business - the first rule of the business is 'not to think in any moral responsibility / accountability mode'. Everything is dispensable and just try to do few good things in between.

Scenarios like death of number of people, that hardly matters. What matters is computation of scenarios which will tell, how Dems will loose both House and Senate because the Base decided to sit at home. Only those 'numbers' (votes and seats) matter to Congress members.

Posted by: umesh409 | February 4, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Part of this is a belief that since the health care system is unsustainable, the Democrats can get another bite at the apple in a few years, probably less time than the 16 years it took last time. The next time it would be different.

At this point, however, I think Democrats have lost the issue. If they pass the bill, they can focus on desired fixes, but many malfunctions in the health care system belong to them. If the just ignore the bill and it goes away, they can't raise the issue anymore because no one will take them seriously.

Posted by: windshouter | February 4, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Ezra - if you simply listened to the opposition party and listen to their specific objections to this bill Democrats could quickly make intelligent compromises that solve this problem

You don't want to participate in democracy. You want a communist dictatorship.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 4, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

"if you simply listened to the opposition party and listen to their specific objections to this bill Democrats could quickly make intelligent compromises that solve this problem'


The HCR bill already is a collection of enormous compromises in the Republican direction, but the Republicans will never vote for ANY health care reform because they are only interested in seeing Democrats fail. The final Senate bill of 2009 is almost identical to the Republican alternative plan of 1993.

As Obama said to the House Republicans, and as your own "communist dictatorship" remark illustrates so well, Republicans portray even the most centrist, watered-down version of reform as some far left government "takeover."

The best strategy for Democrats moving forward is to ignore the Republicans, take full advantage of their majority status, and not have further replays of the "Lucy again pulls the football away from Charlie Brown" scenario that happened countless times in the past year whenever Democrats searched for even the tiniest patch of common ground.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 4, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Great piece, Ezra. Of course you are right. They can do it. Today apparently the President said something moronic again about supporting health care but it can wait until Republicans get a chance to go through it methodically with the Dems and the President all together. Geez. Gimme a break. What were they doing all last year? I like the comment by Patrick M "Completely moronic & suicidal = Don't pass the bill, while the President continues to publicly stress how important it is to pass the bill."

I do continue to marvel at the variety of responses to your blogs, though. I guess they reflect the whole moronic range of American thought.

Posted by: LindaB1 | February 4, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I have actually been looking for a place where people can pledge to sit out the November elections if Democrats don't pass the Senate bill. Perhaps someone with some technical skills could construct a one-issue website that is devoted exclusively to the fact that Democrats could easily pass a health care bill with their 256-178 majority but are now against health care and do not want to do it? Perhaps the site could link to some sort of pledge to disassociate from the Democratic party? I guess moveon.org would indeed be the good venue. The best we can do now is organize to ensure that Democrats lose as badly as possible in November if they don't take action on health care right now. If Democrats fail to act on health care, I would be entirely satisfied to see them get smashed to pieces in the November elections. Their presence as a political party would no longer be required.

Posted by: opinionpieces | February 4, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Brilliant.

Posted by: eRobin1 | February 4, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

"If Democrats fail to act on health care, I would be entirely satisfied to see them get smashed to pieces in the November elections. Their presence as a political party would no longer be required."

Really? Listen, I am as passionate as anyone else about the importance of passing HCR. But if the Democrats do shoot themselves in the foot and fail to get the bill passed, that does not mean I think the smart thing to do is to let Mitch McConnell and John Boehner take over.

It is sometimes easy to forget what this Congress has managed to accomplish, and it is significant. To refresh your memory, take a look here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/29/AR2010012902516_pf.html

But if you still think replacing your Democratic Representative and/or Senator with a Republican will somehow make anything better, go ahead and stay home on election day. We don't need to take pledges or put up web sites to do that. And the Democrats in Congress are already well aware that they will be needing a motivated base in November. Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to pass the bill...that is still the best way to get it done.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 4, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what the health insurance industry thinks is gonna happen? This story in the LA Times (Anthem/Blue Cross of California to raise rates for individually insured -- that's me! by 30-39% on March 1.) We already pay $9,000/year; couple; $5,000 deductible each; doctor copays, etc) Whoopee!

So, the industry either thinks HCR is gonna die -- and why not just rubs their customers noses in it!

Or, they think it'll pass -- and get it while they can.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-insure-anthem5-2010feb05,0,3002094.story

Posted by: dadada | February 4, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

According to Politico ( http://www.politico.com/politico44/ ):

"Here are the highlights from President Obama’s pep talk to his old campaigners at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser:

-- Obama said Congress should pass a jobs bill before health care legislation is finalized, which would give Americans time to understand what’s in the bill. “It may be that if Congress decides ... we're not gonna do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not," he said. "That's how democracy works, and there are elections coming up."

-- Answering the same question about health care, Obama said the “next step” is to ask Republicans for their ideas. He said he wants to have a meeting with Republicans, Democrats and health care experts to go through the House and Senate versions “in a methodical way.” After that, it would be time “to go ahead and move forward on a vote,” he said."


Oh joy, we are starting over, making sure people know what's in the bill, seeking those excellent Republican ideas again, and making sure we approach this in a "methodical" way.

It seems appropriate that Groundhog Day was this week, because (just like in the movie) we have been through all of this before.

Let's have lots of rowdy halls next August while we're at it, and then take a vote next Christmas Eve.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 4, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

NealB1:
"it's Senate Democrats that are killing health insurance reform. Namely: Joe Lieberman and Republicans."

Yep, when I want to blame things on Democrats, I always go straight for the independent and the Republicans, too.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | February 4, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Patrick_M:
"it is scandalous that anyone is denied health care in the richest country in the world."

People are denied care in every country with a national healthcare system, too. Every year, thousands of Britons on waiting lists die because they could not get timely treatment. And when you adjust for differences in populations, the mortality rate is similar.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | February 4, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Twenty years after the end of the cold war, the Obama administration is seeking to spend nearly as much money for the military as Medicare and Medicaid combined. This is seldom, if ever, mentioned at this website, but often stated in people's comments at "The New York Times" website.

Military spending has more than doubled since Bush II took office, less than ten years ago. There is not the slightest rational need for military spending by this country to be about the same as all other countries combined in the world. Obama, most Democrats and all Republicans oppose universal health care for all people in this country legally, saying doing so would be too expensive.

Giving greater importance to unnecessary military spending than meeting the basic health care needs of human beings in this country shows how perverse and distorted are the priorities of most politicians.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | February 5, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

"Every year, thousands of Britons on waiting lists die because they could not get timely treatment."

Hogwash. Complete hogwash. And apparently you don't understand the first thing about the pending legislation . The UK has a truly socialized national health system, the HCR reform bills leave everything in the USA privatized. No rationing, no waiting lists, no "death panels." Just more access to the same providers and insurers that we already use.

"And when you adjust for differences in populations, the mortality rate is similar."

Adjust for the differences in populations? Apparently you don't know what a "rate" means. Mortality rates requires "no adjustment for differences in populations." By definition, the rate provides a means for direct comparison.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 5, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

The President needs to use his pulpit to further educate the public. I'm sick of hearing "we have the greatest health care in the world" or "I have good health insurance and I don't want to lose it because of the Dems" These dolts need to be asked, "But what if you get sick and can't work and lose your insurance ?" or "if your kids get older, can't find a job and don't have insurance and get sick " It's just sad that the Repubs are first and foremost the party of me, me, me with no thought of anything but there cuurent position.

Posted by: Falmouth1 | February 5, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

"the HCR reform bills leave everything in the USA privatized. No rationing, no waiting lists, no "death panels."

This is mathematically impossible. There is *always* rationing, in every model. That's a law of economics. Demand in infinite, supply is finite. There must always be rationing.

47 million without insurance? That's the current rationing model. For all this talk about reform, there is no explanation of what the new rationing model will be. Yet there *must* be one. Who will go without treatment, and how will it be determined? To say there will be "no rationing" is simple ignorance.

It is mathematically, physically, economically impossible to satisfy all healthcare demand. Today's rationing model is well understood -- what is the rationing model that you propose? If you propose that nobody be denied care for any reason, then the shorfall will appear as waiting lists as demand will still exceed supply.

And that's why people do die on waiting lists in places like Canada and the UK.

And as for "And when you adjust for differences in populations, the mortality rate is similar." Think of that statement like "After multiplying two times two, the product is 4." If you wouldn't ridicule *that*, then you have no business ridiculing the other.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | February 5, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, You are starting to come around to the FDL / Jane Hamsher view - all that is needed is 51 and 218 principled Democrats.

Of course, Jane's view is that 'principled Democrats' ought to support a better bill than Mitt Romney's initiative taken to the federal level. 'Principled Democrats' ought to support a Medicare for all, a public option or even the Nixon era republican plan.

Of course, the question is, "Are there 218 and 51?" FDL has been pushing from the left of the New Democrats position to try to bring some of the old FDR philosophies to bear.

FDL has also been pushing to send money to candidates via Act Blue rather than to Rahm Emmanuel selected Blue Dogs funded from DCCC or the DNC (now under Tim Kaine and who-knows-if-there-is-still-50-state-strategy).

Since the DCCC funded Ben Nelson ads railing AGAINST the HCR, there is reason to shift funding. After all, who needs to pay to fund attacks on plans that 'principled Democrats' support? Right now, principled democrats should fund principled democratic party campaigns. Unfortunately, corporate money will flow to the 'unprincipled' and at much greater volumes than the grassroots.

Posted by: grooft | February 5, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

srw3,

Medicare is popular with beneficiaries because it is massively subsidized and has limited cost (or fraud) controls in place. Private insurance, which is already very popular among its (working-age) beneficiaries, would be more popular still if, say, it were paid for by old people.

Medicare has a $37 trillion unfunded liability. If it were a private insurance company it would be shut down and its managers jailed.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 5, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Patrick_M, you write: "But if the Democrats do shoot themselves in the foot and fail to get the bill passed, that does not mean I think the smart thing to do is to let Mitch McConnell and John Boehner take over."

Mitch McConnell and John Boehner may be unsavory characters, but there is at least an understandable reason for their opposition to health care reform -- they are playing a political game that's benefiting the Republican party. Democrats, on the other hand, are simply so adamantly opposed to health care reform that they are willing to sacrifice themselves politically to prevent passage.

So if the Republicans take power, there is at least a small possibility that they will pass a meaningful health care bill (even Republicans realize that the current system is unworkable). But with Democrats in power, as the current situation proves, it is a complete impossibility to pass a health care bill. Again, the reason is that Democrats are clearly opposed to health care reform. If they weren't opposed to it, they would have used their 256-178 majority in the House and passed the Senate bill by now. With the Democrats passage of a health care bill is impossible; with Republicans in power, it is merely improbable but there might be a slight chance. So I think that we'll have to pick the lesser of two evils and give Republicans a chance.

Of course, this all sounds strange because health care reform was supposed to be the signature issue of the Democratic party. As far as issues go, it was supposed to be the very heart and soul of the party. But now, after many decades of trying, the Democrats are one simple House vote away from passing a comprehensive reform bill. They hold a huge majority and could easily pass the bill. Yet they refuse to do so. This shows that the party no longer has a heart or a soul. It's simply a dead body. It would be foolish to waste one's vote on a politician who willingly associates with such an organization. The Democratic party has, quite literally, ceased to stand for anything whatsoever.

Posted by: opinionpieces | February 5, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

opinionpieces,

I think the Dems' signal failure has been their inability to fashion a bill that could win the support of a majority of the American people. If their bill had been popular then the Dems wouldn't have had the crisis of will.

The Dems attempted to shoot the moon, going for a transformative, expensive bill - but that's outside of most Americans' comfort zone, especially coming as it is during a time of economic distress when deficits are already ballooning. I thin it's possible a bill along the lines of the Senate or House bills could have passed if we had been at a different point in the economic cycle.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 5, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Democrats should remember the vote to give then President George W Bush the right to use force against Iraq. At the time, it seemed hardly believable that Democrats would sign on to Bush's obvious BS, and yes it was obvious even then, about WMDs and the like. Hillary Clinton might very well be President today if she hadn't voted the way she did. Democrats have to remember that however hard it might be to pass good healthcare reform, failure to pass GOOD reform will doom them come November. If Democratic House and Senate members up for election want to see their seats follow Ted Kennedy's then all they have to do is fail to deliver good healthcare reform. With reconcilliation the obvious way forward, Democrats up for election have to decide how badly they want to keep their seats. Just give your supporters a reason to stay home and as they did in Mass. you will be accomodated.

Posted by: fredfawcett | February 5, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

"The Democratic party has, quite literally, ceased to stand for anything whatsoever."
Posted by: opinionpieces

Senator Franken today began to demonstrate the much-needed leadership, by exhorting his colleagues in the Senate to "pledge" for sidecar reconciliaition so that the House Democrats will have the needed patch in place to pass the Senate bill.

Obama's statement on Thursday was procedurally incoherent in many ways, but at least underlined his support for final passage of HCR after the jobs bill.

Let's admit the facts. The major obtacles for the bill have been the chase for 60 Senate votes at the end, and the closely related death march in the Senate Finance Committee at the beginnning. If Senate Democrats did not need a "super majority," HCR would have been signed into law during the fall, if not sooner.

Suppose the Democrats now fail to pass a bill, despite the fact that HCR hs passed through both chambers of Congress. That will be an "epic fail" and all of us who support HCR will have a perfectly valid reason to be supremely pissed at the party's leadership.

But even if that happens, if your response is to boycott elections, and thereby compound the problem (by growing the majoritarian disadvantage of the Democrats), you will do nothing more than reward Republican obstructionism and compound the very problem you are claiming to protest.

For now, please let us focus on pressure on the Democrats to pass the bill. This battle is not over.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 6, 2010 5:44 AM | Report abuse

Ezra:
"Children attending funerals that never needed to happen. Families losing homes they could've kept. People suffering chronic pain that we could've eased. Strained businesses turning to layoffs that didn't need to happen. Doctors diagnosing late-stage cancers that could have been caught while still curable."

Is this the precursor to accusing those in opposition to the bill of being murderers? Is cancer curable?

Posted by: VAALEX | February 6, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"Is cancer curable?"

Good news! Yes, many forms of cancer have a nearly 100% cure rate when caught early, but those same types of cancer are often deadly if diagnosed in a late stage.

That is why private insurers are happy to pay for routine colonoscopies, and other diagnostic tools, including an annual check-up, for people who appear to be in good health.

And that is also why expanding coverage would prevent a great deal of suffering and death in the USA.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 7, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes doing nothing looks frightening.

Just wondering why you think that the proposals on the table - with their gigantic concessions to every conceivable special interest - are better than nothing.

Posted by: binkless | February 10, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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