Will a more moderate bill attract more moderate votes?
Yesterday, Rep. Bart Gordon's office sent out a press release saying the congressman believed "the additional cost reduction measures in the President’s new health care proposal are moving in the right direction." This was notable because Gordon was one of the higher-profile Democratic defections the first time around. But if you think policy matters, it shouldn't be surprising. As Neera Tanden (formerly of the administration, but now working for the Center for American Progress and writing for the New Republic) explains, the bill the House is considering now is much more moderate and fiscally cautious than the bill the House passed last year.
In fact, the Senate bill, even after the president’s proposed modifications, addresses almost all of the major concerns that the Blue Dogs have raised. As a matter of policy, the Senate bill is a moderate Democrat's dream. House moderates have to ask themselves, apart from political considerations, how can they now vote against a bill that senators Lincoln, Lieberman, Landrieu and Bayh have all voted for?
Let’s go issue by issue. The Blue Dogs opposed the public plan that featured so prominently in the House bill. Well, the Senate scrapped that a long time ago. Blue Dogs wanted more cost-containment policies. Well, the Senate bill is not just stronger, but substantially so. It features a robust Independent Payment Advisory Board with authority to lower Medicare payment rates. The House bill doesn’t even have such a commission. The Senate bill also has stronger provisions to push payment reform through a new “innovation center” that will reward quality of care, rather than the volume of care that doctors provide. These are important moves away from the fee-for-service system.
Some House moderates criticized the House bill for taxing the rich. Lucky for them, that’s barely in the Senate bill. While the House bill used the millionaire’s tax to raise $460 billion in revenues, the Senate bill has a Medicare tax that raises only $87 billion from high-income folks.
What about deficit reduction? Both the House and Senate bills would reduce the deficit by upwards of $100 billion over the next decade, but the Congressional Budget Office gives the Senate bill better marks over the next decade on longer-term savings. The CBO says the Senate bill “would reduce federal budget deficits over the decade after 2019 relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of GDP.” Furthermore, they should be suffering from significantly less sticker shock. The Senate bill costs nearly $200 billion less over ten years. Not a trivial difference.
One of the big questions in this process was whether a more moderate bill will attract more moderate votes. The statements of Gordon and some others suggest that maybe, just maybe, it will.
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