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What Susan Collins's explanations don't explain

It's telling, I think, that in an op-ed explaining why she doesn't support the Senate health bill, Susan Collins cherrypicks numbers from CMS, which make the bill seem like it costs a lot of money, rather than using the more traditional numbers from the CBO, which imply that the bill saves money. It's also a hard rationale to believe, given that Collins supported the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, which not only increased spending by more than $400 billion, but paid for it by adding to the deficit.

One of the difficulties in trying to understand a politician's motives is that anyone can come up with plausible reasons to support this bill or oppose that legislation. Those reasons are probably even honest, at least to the person offering them. But for all that, you'd come up with a much better model for predicting Collins's votes by asking whether a Democrat or a Republican was behind the health-care bill than you would by asking whether the bill in question was fiscally responsible. And that's true for most legislators. Policy matters, but not nearly as much as party does.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 2, 2010; 2:05 PM ET
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Be more cynical.

I've followed politics for years, and never have I read some Senator say, for example "I voted for the Gulf war because I thought it would be successful and wanted to be on the right side of it when it came my time to run for President" or similar bald-faced political calculations which ultimately governs the way almost all of these people make decisions they do.

Reading and taking seriously the op-eds, visits to Meet the Press, even floor speeches of various politicians (even dare I say Presidents), would cause a serious-thinking person a world of confusion, given how obviously illogical it is to say, support making the Bush tax cuts permanent while rambling on about how the deficit is an 800 lb monster that must be slayed and now.

These people will say whatever it takes to justify whatever they already want to do.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | February 2, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Senator Collins complains about the process that resulted in good amendments not being in the bill, but neglects to state the reasons why the process took the form it did.
She wants to both do as much as she can to kill any health care bill so as to damage the democrats and have a full and open process where her input is fairly considered. The real tell is that she can offer to vote for cloture if the merged HCR bill contains those provisions she wants. She did not, so those provisions aren't that important.

Posted by: windshouter | February 2, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I'd feel really bad about Senator Collins always cherrypicking the numbers that favors her side if the Democrats didn't do the same thing. President Obama just finished giving a speech that touted the "almost 6% GDP growth" in the 4th quarter. Everyone knows that's a phantom number and that it'll be revised down but politically it works for him so he uses it. I have a lot of respect for the President for tackling the tough issues like healthcare and now FINALLY jobs but I'd have more respect if he didn't say partisan things like he did in that speech (just a week or so after saying he wanted to get past the political fray and not lay blame) in the SOTU. Obviously he's forgotten that already. Maybe he'll come out in a speech after the numbers are revised downward and mention it with as much bravado but I doubt it.

I would also say party matters almost 100% for Republicans and less so for Democrats. These Democrats seem willing to go against their leadership while Republicans very rarely do anymore unfortunately.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 2, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

You know, I still haven't seen conservatives, whether elected or on message boards, come up with a plausible explanation for supporting the Bush tax cuts or Medicare Part D but opposing these HCR bills. Come on guys! I know you can do it! It's like Trekkies coming up with a reason why there aren't any toilets on the Enterprise. Most explanations might sound a bit far fetched, but trying to find a good one is part of the fun!

Posted by: MosBen | February 2, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

"You know, I still haven't seen conservatives, whether elected or on message boards, come up with a plausible explanation for supporting the Bush tax cuts or Medicare Part D but opposing these HCR bills."

Well, while I supported the Bush tax cuts, I was 100% opposed to Medicare Part D, which has already turned out to be more expensive than promised (surprise!) and will almost certainly not be cut or trimmed or repealed.

But I can tell you why I don't much care for the HCR bills (at least, not most of them, so far). Too little or no bits on tort reform, malpractice reform, and selling insurance across state lines. More bureaucracy, when the insurance bureaucracy between patient and doctor is already a big part of the problem. Advocates acting like the counter-intuitive assertion that a broad expansion of coverage will be deficit neutral, or save money, is self-evident and doesn't need to be explained. That bugs me. A little.

But mostly, it's because the Democrats are proposing it. And they're awfully shifty-eyed.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 2, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Medicare Part D simply modernized an already existing public benefit. Medicare was created when there were not many prescription drugs. Now there is a lot of treatment that can be given through medication.

The current health care reform gives a new benefit, health insurance to 35 million people. These are very different and Susan Collins is perfectly right to consider them differently.

For whatever it is worth, I think the Senate bill is a bad bill but much better than the House bill and even better than the status quo. Medicare Part D was a good bill as well.

Posted by: lancediverson | February 2, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

and you're surprised Republicans like Collins would behave as if "party" was all that matters.

that's always been the Republican reality. and it works, for them 100%.

where's the surprise, unless you haven't been paying attention.

when the Republicans take back control, you'll see how much "party" is all that matters.

at least the Democrats won't have the chance to Eff things up anymore, they do it oh so well. lol

Posted by: BernardEckholdt | February 2, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Kevin Willis - "Too little or no bits on tort reform, malpractice reform, and selling insurance across state lines."

As the article was commenting, some people will use any flimsy excuse to justify what they have already decided. No one who has the data can possibly believe that tort reform, i.e., protecting quacks from responsibility for their actions, is in any way going to reduce costs. There is too much evidence to the contrary, Texas being a case in point. We've had "tort reform" for years and it hasn't done a thing towards reducing medical costs or even malpractice premiums. McAllen is one of the US cities with the highest medical costs. The only thing it has done is prevent people who have been destroyed by malpractice from recovering damages.

And the idea that somehow allowing insurance companies to pick the state with the most permissive regulations as their base will somehow reduce costs just boggles the mind. If you want to see what will happen, look at the credit card industry that uses South Dakota as its home base because SD allows them to do whatever they want with no recourse for the victim of nefarious credit card corporations.

Posted by: dkmjr | February 3, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

c'mon Ezra, she's a recovering spendaholic. She probably bought a house that's worth 75% of what is was back in the Part D days too.

Why isn't Billy Tauzin in prison?

Posted by: staticvars | February 3, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse


"I was 100% opposed to Medicare Part D, which has already turned out to be more expensive than promised (surprise!)"

Actually, costs for Part D have been lower than predicted:

Doesn't make the program right (why should the richest segment of the population in the world get their drugs paid for? shouldn't there be income limits on this?), but it hasn't cost as much as predicted.

Posted by: Incredulous2 | February 3, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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