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There's no plan B for health-care reform

PH2010020902684.jpg

The Wall Street Journal has a splashy piece this evening on the White House's plan B for health-care reform: a fallback approach that would cover 15 million people, do less to reform the system and cut costs, and carry a lower price tag. Call it health-care lite.

Plan B has been around for awhile. In August, discussions raged in the White House over whether to pare back the bill. The comprehensive folks won the argument, but people also drew up plans for how you could pare back the bill, if it came to that. More thinking was done on this in the aftermath of the Massachusetts election, when Rahm Emanuel and some of the political folks again argued for retreating to a more modest bill. As you'd expect, these conversations included proposals for how that smaller bill would look.

At this point, I could quote some White House sources swearing up and down that that's all this is. A vestigial document that's being blown out of proportion by a conservative paper interested in an agenda-setting story. They're furious over this story. None of the quotes are sourced to the White House -- not even anonymously -- raising questions that the whole thing is sabotage. But it hardly matters. There's no Plan B at this point in the game, and most everyone knows it.

Think about what's entailed in restarting the process. The Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee would have to build new bills. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, Education and Labor Committee, and Ways and Means Committee would need to write new legislation. All of those proposals would need to be merged. There would need to be discussions in committees, and then weeks and weeks on the floor. Then there would need to be conference. Then they'd have to come back to the floor.

There's no time for that. Congress has a few, final months before everyone scurries home to campaign for 2010. And they want to spend those months forcing Republicans to take difficult votes on jobs legislation, not arguing over whether Medicaid is solvent enough for a major expansion.

More importantly, there's no political upside in starting over. The right will still cry "death panels!" and let loose the dogs of tea, and the left will savage them for failing to pass health-care reform despite controlling the second-largest congressional majority since the 70s. There's a policy argument here in that a fallback plan will cover more people than no plan will cover, but if covering people is what the Democrats want to do, they'll pass the comprehensive plan, which both covers more people and actually gives them a major accomplishment.

At this point, health-care reform either passes or it dies. Democrats are all in on this one. They know it, Republicans know it, and maybe more importantly, they know the Republicans know it. Letting health-care reform fail is indistinguishable from conceding the 2010 election. There's no real fallback plan. If Democrats fall back, they fall.

Update: In comments, some of you point out that the Journal story indeed includes comments from a senior White House official. In the current version, a "senior White House official" tells the Journal what a senior White House official told me last night: That the smaller plan was developed to give Obama a sense of the options when it looked like spooked Democrats might back off from the plan altogether. The quote comes right after the eight paragraph.

So was I writing sloppy last night? Nope. The quote didn't exist. I happen to have the original version open in my browser, so here's a screenshot of that section of the article. And here it is in the revised version. Senior White House officials were making a lot of calls last night, and the article was edited to include one of them.

To make another point, I'm not doubting Meckler's reporting: I'd heard the 15 million at one-fourth the cost number as well. That plan has been around for a few weeks. The skepticism I'm hearing came due to timing: It's highly unlikely the White House would leak any of this the night before the summit when they're pushing for a comprehensive plan, which is why some raised their eyebrows at the fact that none of the original sources were identified as White House sources.. But this is getting off track from the argument of the post.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 25, 2010; 12:25 AM ET
 
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Comments

"Think about what's entailed in restarting the process."

this would be the nightmare before easter.
if this is some sort of trickery from the wall street journal to publish this, in an attempt to derail/sabotage the process before the summit, then it is the most irresponsible and dangerous kind of journalism. worse than what the tabloids do.
how dare they do this......
i hope every responsible journalist calls them out on this is.
it just makes one livid.

Posted by: jkaren | February 25, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Spot on, Ezra. Most Democrats have ALREADY cast a tough vote in favor of this legislation.

The moderates/conservatives that believe that if they vote no this time that Republicans will forget their earlier vote and go easy on them this November are shockingly naive. They are going to be attacked either way -- at least if they pass the bill they will have something to defend and something to show for it. (If you recall -- in 1994 Democrats got romped over health reform that they DIDN'T PASS! Everyone seems to forget this.)

And to the waffling liberals? Well, if they aren't willing to see that a "pretty good" bill is better for America than no bill at all, well then they sure live privileged lives, now don't they? It must be nice to live in an ideological ivory tower where you can muse about how health reform really SHOULD have been done if they had their way. Next year, they can go knock on Speaker Boehner's door with their ideas.

I'm sure he'll be extremely receptive.

Posted by: vvf2 | February 25, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

WSJ, no surprise. That is what they do.

All in, Democrats. You have the majorities. You have already passed bills through both chambers. You have the President eager to sign your bill and he is doing what he does best for 6 hours on TV to give you cover (like any "cover" is needed for giving people health care).

And (since you are politicians) you understand that everybody loves a fighter, and everybody loves a winner.

So...

Pass The Damn Bill (and do something big, make some history, you'll be amazed how good it feels).

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 25, 2010 2:29 AM | Report abuse

Ezra: "None of the quotes are sourced to the White House -- not even anonymously -- raising questions that the whole thing is sabotage."

WSJ piece: "As he was weighing his choices, Mr. Obama asked his staff to show him what a more modest policy might look like, and the plan to cover about 15 million people was the most promising, A SENIOR WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL SAID. 'He wanted people to look at what effect you could have on the overall problem if you have to go smaller,' THE OFFICIAL SAID."

"White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel didn't devise the smaller policy, THE OFFICIAL SAID. But Mr. Emanuel argued that it wasn't feasible to pass a comprehensive bill and counseled a lesser version, according to several people familiar with the conversations." (CAPS emphasis added)

Posted by: SteveinSacto | February 25, 2010 2:52 AM | Report abuse

I've not yet seen how comprehensive health care reform gets through the people's House, given the existence of the Stupak caucus which unless I've missed something still isnt on board with the Nelson compromise.

To wit, my guess is this "health summit" today is going to strongly resemble the Paris Peace Accords, in that nothing will get resolved between the two sides, except lots of empty platitudes about the importance of health care reform, and the hostilities will resume almost as fast as they stop, if they ever stop at all.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | February 25, 2010 5:12 AM | Report abuse

I agree with SteveinSacto, the WSJ piece does indeed attribute a few quotes concerning discussions about an Obama HCR fallback strategy to an (anonymous) "Senior White House official." So Ezra's cover comments appear to contain a mistake. However...

I am less than shocked that the White House would want to develop contingency plans for a worst case scenario on HCR.

I am also less than shocked that the WSJ would try to pretend that such plans are major news, just before the HCR summit.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 25, 2010 5:28 AM | Report abuse

Why couldn't the current conference halve the subsidies, pull out the Medicare Commission and excise tax and have a plan B plan? Why do you technically have to start over?

Agree on the politics of Plan B being unlikely, but as the legislative guru here, its not clear why Plan B requires starting over. Its really only about a couple of things that are being negotiated to a lesser degree already.

Posted by: wisewon | February 25, 2010 5:34 AM | Report abuse

I meant you were the legislative guru, not me... I'm just a health care guy...

Posted by: wisewon | February 25, 2010 5:35 AM | Report abuse

zeppelin003,

"...the hostilities will resume almost as fast as they stop, if they ever stop at all."

I agree this ought to be a safe bet, absent some totally unexpected shocker proposal by the GOP.

"I've not yet seen how comprehensive health care reform gets through the people's House, given the existence of the Stupak caucus which unless I've missed something still isnt on board with the Nelson compromise."

Agree again. Presuming the summit disposes of the Republican complaints of being shut out, blah blah blah, the problem remains where it always has been...what, if anything, can a Democratic majority in both chambers agree to pass.

The Democratic ducks need to be in a row, whether or not the Republicans get any free policy prizes for making nice at the summit today.

And the Dems are never good with their duck formations.

The Stupak votes, the House Blue Dogs, and the fraternal House & Senate Dem squabbling--are all big question marks, even if the summmit is a knock-out victory over the party of no.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 25, 2010 5:53 AM | Report abuse

"Letting health-care reform fail is indistinguishable from conceding the 2010 election."

It's questionable, to say the least, whether off-year election voters would reward the Democrats for passing an unpopular bill. Dropping the health care reform effort may well be their least bad option at this point. That's certainly true for Democrats representing Republican-leaning districts/states.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 25, 2010 5:59 AM | Report abuse

wisewon,

I doubt that Rahm and company have invested much thought in the plan b. They have other issues on the agenda, they have high hopes that the current HCR push will work, Harry Reid is reserving 2 months for reconciliation, so Obama would likely think that even if his effort is possibly going to fail, possible failure won't happen for many years.

And, in the worst case failure scenario, I am guessing that health care initiatives would stay off the agenda for some time, or else appear in random bite-sized pieces.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 25, 2010 6:08 AM | Report abuse

tbass1 wrote:
"Dropping the health care reform effort may well be their least bad option at this point. That's certainly true for Democrats representing Republican-leaning districts/states."

It's certainly the best way to guarantee that the
Democrats in those Repub-leaning districts/states stay home next November.

Posted by: TomServo | February 25, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry. But anyone who takes what's coming out of the WSJ at face value is either a:

a) Liar
b) Fool
c) All of the Above

The questions is, which of the talking bobbleheads on the news will actually run with this as the new "narrative" rather than focus on the HCR summit.

....I'm sorry... I guess we all know which network/shows will be picking this one up, don't we? *cough*FOX*cough*... *cough*Joe-in-the-Morning*cough*

Posted by: JERiv | February 25, 2010 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if there's a list you can sign onto of voters who promise not to support Democrats in November (neither financially or thru vote) if they don't pass the HCR bill?

I'd sign on.

Posted by: JERiv | February 25, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

TomServo: "It's certainly the best way to guarantee that the
Democrats in those Repub-leaning districts/states stay home next November."

It's true that Dems would be demoralized if a health care reform bill were not passed but I don't think it's clear that, if one were passed, they would come out to the polls in an off-year election to reward the party.

On the other hand, the Republicans and Tea Party-types would likely be more energized if a bill were to pass. If health care reform were to be tabled or diluted some of the urgency and energy would be sapped from the opposition.

I just don't agree with Ezra that passing an unpopular bill is a clear winner for the Democrats - at least from the standpoint of protecting their seats.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 25, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Plan B for Obama should be to announce that gvmt is completely broken and that Congress (Republicans and Democrats alike) is a wholly owned subsidiary of special interests, and that his primary goal from this time forward is to reform the way all federal elections are financed.

Nothing will ever be accomplished for the people unless such reform is effected.

Democrats had a supermajority and the White House and a mandate for reform still, they have accomplished nothing but proven their incompetence.

- Health care reform? We'll soon see whether this is a bust. Even if it passes, most of us know the amount of actual reform is dubious.

- Credit card reform. A bust. (the bill that was passed is intentionally ineffective)

- Consumer protection agency? A bust.

- Banking and financial reform? A bust.

- Law passed to stem the coming damage of the recent USSC citizens united ruling? A bust.

- CEO pay and bonus? A bust.

- Gitmo? A bust.

- Terror trials? A bust.

- Iraq? A bust.

- Deficit commission? A bust.

- True jobs and stimulus plan? A bust.

- DADT? A bust.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 25, 2010 7:40 AM | Report abuse

"There's no time for that" is weaksauce.

"No time for that" means you made the wrong choice back when you still had the time.

But libs went for the expensive "universal healthcare" ideological jewel, rather than just focusing on the rising health insurance prices that trouble a vast majority of Americans.

Posted by: cpurick | February 25, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

"Ezra's cover comments appear to contain a mistake."

"WSJ would try to pretend"

So the presumption is that Ezra's inaccuracies are honest mistakes, while the Wall Street Journal's are deception?

Patrick, if you're not in on the scam, then you're being scammed.

Posted by: cpurick | February 25, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Lomillialor, You may be putting the cart before the horse on a few of these, and on some others, you're just flat out wrong. I'' take them one by one:

- Health care reform? We'll soon see whether this is a bust. Even if it passes, most of us know the amount of actual reform is dubious.
No major change to the status quo has ever happened in on sweeping act. Just instituting the idea that health-care is a right of citizenship is huge. Clearly we need to cover as many people as we possibly can, but even the (admittedly disappointing) Senate bill wouldn't be nothing.
- Credit card reform. A bust. (the bill that was passed is intentionally ineffective)
Probably true, but it's a start.
- Consumer protection agency? A bust.
You can't know that yet. It won't fix everything, but it could level the playing feild a little. Lets give them the chance to try.
- Banking and financial reform? A bust.
dunno yet
- Law passed to stem the coming damage of the recent USSC citizens united ruling? A bust.
Again, you can't possibly know this yet. We dont even have the bill yet. Do you own a Delorian?

- CEO pay and bonus? A bust.
True

- Gitmo? A bust.
Great progress has been made. "Not done yet" doesn't mean "not gonna happen."

- Terror trials? A bust.
Haven't happend. You can't know this.

- Iraq? A bust.
True, but it was Bush's bust. The draw-down is underway, and its even on the schedule he discussed in the campaign.

- Deficit commission? A bust.
Don't know yet

- True jobs and stimulus plan? A bust.
Factually, patently, demonstrably untrue.

- DADT? A bust.
hasn't happened yet, but more progress has been made in the process than at any time in history. By what standard do you call this a bust?

It seems to me, that you are eager to call anything President Obama touches a bust, but you just can't get away with it without getting a look at his cards first.

Posted by: elijah24 | February 25, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

TomServo: Independents are the ones who elect Democrats in Republican leaning districts. That's the math the congressman are looking at and Pelosi, et al., from overwhelming Dem districts don't understand. Passing HCR will not help reelection but voting against it with platitudes towards a smaller, more popular series of measures just might.

Posted by: Philly213 | February 25, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Plan B is to vote republican if the Dems pass this bill. They should start over.

Posted by: obrier2 | February 25, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I can understand not wanting to vote for Democrats, but to vote for a Republican is like handing a knife to OJ Simpson and asking him to protect you.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 25, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Ezra - How does this legislation lower the spiraling cost of healthcare?

By decreeing that doctors get paid less(i.e. like Medicare does)?

By decreeing that a terminally ill woman can't get coverage for hip surgery?

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601070&sid=aGrKbfWkzTqc


By rewarding "neglect" at hospitals:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-the-real-lessons-of-this-nhs-disaster-1909596.html

How does this bill achieve the ultimate goal of reform by lowering the increasing cost of healthcare, and thereby increasing access? Is there any point to increasing access AND NOT lowering cost?

Do Democrats feel good if they pass legislation that provides the poor access to healthcare--BUT THEN SLOWLY DISAPPEARS BECAUSE INCREASINGLY COSTLY SERVICES BECOME UNACCESSIBLE FOR ALL? How does that help anybody?

Doing NOTHING is better than doing that!!!

(I don't think any of you who are supporting this bill really care about facts! This is about an assertion of power!)

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 25, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Or by mandating young and healthy people pay much more for healthcare than they would otherwise pay (i.e. taxing them)?

And how does that really reduce healthcare costs?

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 25, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

What we have to look forward to here in USA:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-the-real-lessons-of-this-nhs-disaster-1909596.html

Yet as yesterday's independent report on Stafford by Robert Francis QC outlines, the hospital was, during this time, drastically cutting staffing budgets and leaving patients to fester in soiled sheets. How did the inspectors miss this? The report says the hospital's management was pre-occupied with cost-cutting and meeting crude targets set by Whitehall. But so too, it would seem, were the regulators. The trust appears to have been judged on the quality of its balance sheet rather than the quality of care offered to patients.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 25, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Passing health care now will prove that we can actually effect reform. It will inspire more changes in the future which will eventually reign-in insurance company predatory practices and save 10,000s American lives and start to bend the costs of health care. It will help minimize GOP gains in future elections, which will also help heal broken gvmt as those saboteurs and obstructionists are rejected.

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 25, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

What I don't understand from the "start over" crowd is what they expect will be different the second time around? Do Republicans have a bill full of ideas that never got considered while the current bills were being created? Why didn't we hear about it more during the August recess rather than the fictional 'death panel' nonsense? Won't 'starting over' just mean that Dems will propose reforms similar to what they're proposing today? What's going to change between what happens at today's summit and starting over?

"Starting over" is just a talking point like "Drill, baby, drill." It doesn't really address the underlying issue or present a real roadmap for addressing the problem.

Posted by: MosBen | February 25, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Ezra writes: "cry "death panels!" and let loose the dogs of tea" -- That should be "let slip the dogs of tea", if the allusion is to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

Posted by: thehersch | February 25, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

@Lomillialor: "I can understand not wanting to vote for Democrats, but to vote for a Republican is like handing a knife to OJ Simpson and asking him to protect you."

There's no one else to vote for, if your central objective is for Democrats to lose. Although you could go Green, Socialist or Libertarian if you just wanted to make a statement. But in order to be assured your vote is going to help defeat a Democrat, you've got to vote Republican.

Is voting for a Democrat like handing Bernie Madoff all your money and asking him to spend it for you?

Not that I don't like the O.J. Simpson comparison, but it seems a little hyperbolic.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 25, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

@MosBen: "'Starting over' is just a talking point like 'Drill, baby, drill.' It doesn't really address the underlying issue or present a real roadmap for addressing the problem."

I suppose it depends on your point of view. I regard "Drill, baby, drill" as a talking point that neatly encapsulates a great energy policy, and defines the primary orientation that we should take regarding energy independence.

"Starting Over" is just a tactic to cripple healthcare reform and, more importantly, defeat Democrats politically.

"What I don't understand from the 'start over' crowd is what they expect will be different the second time around"

They expect the process will take some period of time past the November elections, and thus allow it to be completely gutted or replaced with a bill that's nothing but tort reform and expanded healthcare savings accounts.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 25, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

there is no "starting over."

this is it.
we are here.

when i take my dog to the vet, he shakes like a little leaf.
he tugs on the leash with all his might in the other direction.
he sits down on his hind legs.
he tries to head back to the car.
we go for an extra walk.
i cajole him.
he pulls again as hard as he can in the other direction.
finally,
there is nothing left to do,
but pick him up,
open the door,
and take him in.

no more excuses.
no more cosmic potential.
no more options.
no more "starting over".
no more reconsidering.
no more turning back.
open the door.
go in.

act.


Posted by: jkaren | February 25, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Well yeah, I agree that they're *real* goal is to derail HCR, but even if I'm bein charitable and assume that they are actually proposing it as an alternative to passing the current bills I just don't know what they think would happen then.

As for "Drill, baby, drill!" I've seen cogent arguments that off-shore drilling can be a stopgap between our current situation and weaning ourselves off of oil entirely, but I have little confidence that most of the time I hear "Drill, baby, drill!" the person saying it has a long term energy policy in mind. Maybe it's just because I associate it so closely with Sarah Palin.

Posted by: MosBen | February 25, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Give it up Ezra. The reporting found within the WSJ is NOT conservative. If you want to talk about the editorial page, fine, that's pretty obvious they take a different view of the world than you do, but don't make the blanket statement of "WSJ is conservative" because it isn't true.

Posted by: novalfter | February 25, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Thats right Novalfter! Fox news either! or Focus on the Family! Damn Liberal media!

Posted by: elijah24 | February 25, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

MosBen,

If Obama were to start over I assume he would try to work more closely with the Republicans to draft a more modest compromise bill that made substantive concessions to the Republicans. The process would be as important as the substantive changes. Of course, policy concessions to Republicans might lose votes from the Democrat's progressive wing. But such compromise might win some Republican votes, passage of a bill and the respect of the balance of the independent voters.

That is probably what most voters had in mind when they heard Obama talk about bringing a new tone to Washington and reaching accross the aisle. Instead he has outsourced the legislating to his party leaders and endorsed bills that are thre result of an intra-party compromise rather inter-party compromise.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 25, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

tbass, but what would the Republicans bring to the table that they haven't proposed already, and why haven't they proposed it already? Republicans could have been proposing an alternative bill during last August that was more to their liking. Instead, they talked about death panels. Republicans could have used the Gang of Six process to either pare the bill back to something that at least some of their caucus could vote for or to at least bring their ideas for a smaller bill to the public's attention.

We've had a whole year when we've been talking about healthcare. What could they do by starting over that they couldn't have done before? Why in the world should Democrats not be suspicious that "starting over" means the Republicans will just repeat what they've done for the last year?

What policy concessions do the Repulicans want that they're saying will guarantee quick passage of the bill? Why can't those be incorporated into the current bill?

The reality, I think, is closer to what Kevin Willis said. During the last year Republicans talked about "slowing down" the process and now they're talking about "starting over", but what they really mean is that if this process lasts long enough it will die completely.

Posted by: MosBen | February 25, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

It's true that the political genius of Obama and his braintrust has been to put the Democrats in a no-win situation. They are sunk whether the bill passes or not. Nonetheless, the meme of Ezra and the rest of the Left blogosphere that by passing the bill "they'll have something to show for it," is delusional.

Look, why is Obamacare in such trouble after a year of being flogged by the most gifted political rhetorician of the day? BECAUSE IT'S A TERRIBLE BILL. Not only are the details terrible, the concept behind "comprehensive healhcare reform" is flawed. It's an obsolete 1960's approach to the problem. If passed the public will HATE IT, especially once the tax increases and restrictions on choice kick in. From a pure political standpoint, the Democrats suffer less harm if the bill dies.

Posted by: wbcoleman | February 25, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

wbcoleman, the bills before Congress don't come close to replicating the healthcare systems of European countries, Canada, or Japan. While those systems aren't perfect, and I believe are introducing some market-oriented changes, they're not rushing to replicate what we've got now or go to a full unregulated healthcare market.

I've not seen any evidence that those systems are horribly unpopular with their populace or that Americans are rebelling to have Medicare completely repealed.

Posted by: MosBen | February 25, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"Give it up Ezra. The reporting found within the WSJ is NOT conservative. If you want to talk about the editorial page, fine, that's pretty obvious they take a different view of the world than you do, but don't make the blanket statement of "WSJ is conservative" because it isn't true."

Actually, there are complaints that the WSJ *news* section has been moving to the right since the Murdoch acquisition:

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/01/wsj-jumps-the-shark/

Posted by: PeterH1 | February 25, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"We've had a whole year when we've been talking about healthcare."

Yes but most of the talk has been among Democrats. Also, the end product of all that talk is unpopular with the American people and the Dems could use some political cover.

"What could they do by starting over that they couldn't have done before?"

In terms of process, begin by including Republican leadership at the beginning rather than at the end.

"Why in the world should Democrats not be suspicious that "starting over" means the Republicans will just repeat what they've done for the last year?"

That's a real possibility but then why should the Republicans have agreed to attend this farcical summit when it was clear that the Democrats had called it in bad faith (i.e., just to score political points)?

I think the best answers to your question as to why the Democrats should reach out is that: (1) that is what Obama campaigned on; (2) it is the Democrats that control the executive and legislative branches of government;(3) it is the Democrats for whom health care reform is really important; and (4) the Dems have tried to do it all on their own or by picking off some token Republicans but have failed.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 25, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

tbass1, we've been talking about healthcare *as a nation*. If Republicans had all these great ideas for their own plan, there's a media apparatus that would have loved to broadcast them. Oh, and since they *are* legislators, they could have gotten co-sponsors for their bill and gotten it considered by committees and scored by the CBO. If we ignore the whole tortured Gang of Six process (as many conservatives do when they talk about being excluded from the process), they're still a pretty sizable chunk of the government. There's lots that a minority can do other than complain that they're not in the meetings they'd like to be in.

Please define "bad faith" in this context outside of "won't throw out the bills".

My question is not "Should the Dems reach out to Repulicans?" it's "Why should the Dems throw away the work they've got, which took a year of hard work, on the word of legislators who haven't shown any signs that they actually want to produce a bill in the last year?"

Also, it's nice to see that you think healthcare reform is only "really important" for Democrats and isn't, in fact, a growing problem affecting millions of Americans and which will bankrupt the country.

Posted by: MosBen | February 25, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

MosBen,

By "bad faith", I mean that Mr. Obama's real aim with this summit was to score political points and provide political cover for wavering Democrats to pull the trigger on reconcilation - not to launch round of negotiations that might lead to a compromise bill with Republicans.

If Obama desired a bipartisan bill he went about it, it seems to me, in a perverse way. Instead of offering up a bill of his own prior to the summit which represented a compromise between the House and Senate bills - which garnered almost no Republican support - he might have waited to see if the Republicans had any "good ideas" he could stomache and then tried to craft an inter-party consensus bill, acting as an honest broker. Even if he had failed to tempt any Republicans I think more independents might have credited him with making a good faith effort at bipartisanship. His own standing and the popularity of his bill might have benefited.

I think Mr. Obama squandered what little opportunity at reaching a comprimise there ever was.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 25, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't think there's a problem with coming to the table saying "these are my proposals". I also don't think there's a problem with the Republicans coming to the summit with a bill and saying, "these are our proposals".

As to what his "real" aims for the summit were, I'm not sure you know that beyond wild guesses or mind reading. I personally think that if there were some modification or addition to the current bills that Republicans said would switch their votes that it'd get in there tomorrow. But scrapping the bills entirely now smacks of political gamesmanship. They were there when these bills were debated.

Posted by: MosBen | February 25, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

MosBen,

Just trying to give the benefit of my persepective. I didn't really expect you to share it. Have a good one.

Posted by: tbass1 | February 25, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

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