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Let's not make a deal

I don't know why Ruth Marcus thinks that adding tort reform to the bill will attract Republican votes. Senate Democrats -- and the White House -- repeatedly signaled their willingness to do just that and found no takers. Indeed, one of the notable elements of this process is that at no time has a Republican or a group of Republicans released a specific list of policies that Democrats could add to the bill to ensure their vote. Concessions might be good for PR purposes -- unilateral bipartisanship and all that -- but that's all they seem able to do in this process.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 10, 2010; 6:23 PM ET
 
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Ezra,

Many prominent Republicans have signaled they see no political upside for them in health care reform passing. This isn't a policy discussion, but a political one and the only interest from Republicans is to kill the bill(s).

What everyone else, but the Republican leadership, has noted is the massive turn-around in Republican political fortunes the last time health care reform failed.

Posted by: Jaycal | February 10, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

If Obama ever manages to arrange the big bi-partisan HCR summit he's proposing, the very first thing he should ask any Republican who has a quasi-plausible suggestion is, "How many Republican votes will that get us?" If the answer is none or a maybe, he should politely say, let's move on then.

Posted by: adagio847 | February 10, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

At this point, it sounds like you would have to strip out most of the insurance market regulations, not cut Medicare Advantage subsidies and not raise income taxes to have a chance at getting the Republicans in Congress on board for health reform.

Alternatively, I guess there is a chance they might go for Wyden-Bennett, which would be workable.

Posted by: weiwentg | February 10, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I really don't think the Republicans are going to do anything to help HCR move forward. Rightly or wrongly, they see being the do-nothing party of "no" as the route to electoral victory in November. And unlike the Democrats right now, I think they are very cognizant of their base, who has pretty much made it clear that they want the Republicans to tell the Democrats to stick it where the sun don't shine in regards to Healthcare, Cap and Trade, and pretty much everything else. Like much of the Democratic base, the Republican base wants their party leaders to play hard ball. Only the Republicans are doing it and the Democrats are not.

I really don't know why.

At the outset, there might have been a way to negotiate with Republicans and compromise and get them on board, but that ship has sailed, if it was ever in the port. Yes, I think Republicans, on principle, do want tort reform and the ability for health care providers to sell across state lines (which helps to solve the issue of portability). But even if they got specifically what they were asking for, and not Democratic versions of those things, they aren't going to voluntarily give Obama a last minute victory.

Unlike many of my conservative brethren, I don't much care for this state of affairs. And not because I support HCR or (most definitely not) Cap and Trade, but because this will be used against the Republicans in the future, and possibly escalated. And then the same thing will happen to the Democrats. And so on.

I really think the filibuster should be eliminated. Failing that, perhaps building in a 7 year sunset into a piece of legislation could make it immune to filibuster? The legislation could be renewed by majority vote every 7 years--or would elsewise expire--but adding the sunset would automatically immunize said legislation from filibuster. Something like that.

I'm sure there are reasons why that isn't a good idea. But, still, the current process is whack.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 10, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans are just trying to run out the clock. You'd think after Baucus got rolled by this last summer, the Democrats might have learned a lesson? And boy did Baucus cost Dems for falling for it -- we'd have HC reform signed by now.

Posted by: willNeuhauser | February 10, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

"Indeed, one of the notable elements of this process is that at no time has a Republican or a group of Republicans released a specific list of policies that Democrats could add to the bill to ensure their vote."

I agree with you that you are unlikely to get Republican support due to the political incentives to not support. However, one feature of the time since the Senate bill passed is that as far as I can tell, no Democrat or group of Democrats have come out with a list of policies that could insure their votes on the possible merged bill. Maybe this is normal or maybe the gulf between the parties pales in comparison to the gulf between the Houses of Congress.

Posted by: windshouter | February 10, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

It seems to be that the President is now doing as much as he can to show the nation that the Republicans are in favor of doing nothing. He will continue to hold out his hand and they will continue to say no. Hopefully by the time elections come around some of these Repub hypocrites will be gone and balance the loss of Dems. If the independents are looking for progress it would seem evident which party is really the problem.

Posted by: Falmouth1 | February 11, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

"...at no time has a Republican or a group of Republicans released a specific list of policies that Democrats could add to the bill to ensure their vote..."

For years now, I have compared Republican/NeoCon strategies to those of abusive, alcoholic partners. I have never had cause to regret that comparison.

In the above case, alcoholics demand "mind reading" from their partners, and blame them for not knowing what was wanted, but are never reliably satisfied.

I spent 3 years with an alcoholic and the parallels, in this example and many others, are quite accurate.

Noni

Posted by: NoniMausa | February 11, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Hmm, your wording is interesting and misleading. "At no time has a Republican or group of Republicans released a specific list of policies that Democrats could add to the bill to ensure their vote"
As I am sure you are aware, Republicans have released their own health care proposals, ALL of which have been voted down by the Democrats. Why should Republicans simply ADD to what is a dreadful, cost-raising , tax- hiking bill that does not even achieve what it set out to - universal coverage. The people of this country don't like the Dem plans and have soundly rejected them. REAL bipartisanship would be to start over, and this time include Republican ideas. Fat chance the likes of Obama, Pelosi and Reid will do this. This new effort is a trap for Republicans to try to smear them.

Posted by: lisaaitken | February 11, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Willis has a good point with the sunset clause, but I would begin that sunset clause about 3 months into a term for a president and make it renewable at the beginning of each term. That gives the 2-term presidents an 'out' if it doesn't work, and the option of new presidents an 'out' if their constituents don't like it.

Tort reform and competition across state lines are necessary, also.

Posted by: whisperonthewind | February 11, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Democrats should insert tort reform, not because it will bring in Republicans, but because it's good policy. In addition, if the people representing those who are most sensitive to a poorly crafted tort reform participate, maybe, tort reform would turn out a net positive

Posted by: steigen | February 11, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I can't see why republicans don't support tort reform other than the fact that so many politicians are attorneys or have close ties to insurance companies. But this is true for democrats as well. It needs a greater public response, I suppose. "If you don't add tort reform, we'll see that you are never elected to even a janitorial position"... and so on. The problem is that the argument against tort reform does have some validity. It's not only a matter of restrucuring attorney fees and insurance company profits. The fact is that awards to defendants who suffered real harm might be reduced in some cases. So it is a matter of the rights and needs of the individual vs. those of society. And this is always a bitter pill to swallow - irrespective of whether you choose the brand or the generic ;)

Posted by: davsnp | February 11, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"The Republicans are just trying to run out the clock. You'd think after Baucus got rolled by this last summer, the Democrats might have learned a lesson? And boy did Baucus cost Dems for falling for it -- we'd have HC reform signed by now.
Posted by: willNeuhauser"

Hey, it's worked. And for the right reasons too. As Republicans used whatever parliamentary method made available, Democrats were revealing they didn't support Pelosi and Obama's vision of health care reform. The desperate attempts to shore up support and rush it through and avoid further problems from Democrats, the public and media were egregious.

Now the Democratic party is fractured, lost the independents, lost a Senate seat and Governorships and about to lose months on health care. They've lost the message, the pulpit, the moral authority, the trust and respect of most.

Republicans could keep this up for months and see the Democrats further self destruct. However, Congress members want to get things done. (Although they'll reserve the right to say "no" to radical left proposals.) There's an opportunity for a truce at a slightly higher price than tort reform or Cornhusker Kickbacks.

Democrats should deal. Further actions to move on the health care bills will lose them independents and many moderates. And it's not like the liberal members view the bill as a win either. So what is party leadership holding dear to? The carefully crafted compromises made between special interests?

Posted by: cprferry | February 11, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

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