Monday, January 25, 2010

Throughout the lengthy debate on health care reform, Republicans refused to negotiate in good faith. Compromises were considered out of the question. Blatantly, demonstrably false claims were the norm. Perhaps worst of all, GOP leaders would embrace specific reform ideas, and when Democrats would agree, those same GOP leaders would reject the same measures they'd already endorsed.

And yet, now that reform is hanging by a thread, congressional Republicans are arguing with a straight face that legislation can still pass -- just as soon as the Democratic majority approves the GOP reform plan.

Last week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) "made it clear that the only starting point for bipartisan compromise would be for Dems to drop their health care plan and embrace the GOP one." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) made the same offer yesterday.

John McCain took a similar line yesterday, suggesting that the only ideas that can pass in a Democratic Congress are those that come from Republicans.

Mr. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said on the CBS news program "Face the Nation" that President Obama should sit down with Republican leaders and begin adopting some of their ideas for improving the nation's health care system such as overhauling medical malpractice lawsuits, allowing residents of one state to buy health insurance from a company in another state, and granting tax credits for people who purchase health insurance on their own.

Perhaps now would be a good time to look back at the official Republican health care reform plan, as it was unveiled in November. It was largely lost in the shuffle -- and het media largely ignored it because reporters knew it had no chance of passing -- but it told us a great deal about how the GOP approaches this issue.

The Republican plan was nothing short of laughable -- it did nothing for the uninsured, nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it's needed most. It was an entirely partisan plan, written in secret. The Republican proposal sought to create a system that "works better for people who don't need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It's basically a health un-insurance policy." And as we learned in November, the plan included provisions that "mirror the suggestions put forth by the lobbying entity of the private insurance industry way back in December 2008."

Indeed, the official Republican plan didn't even offer modest provisions that the party used to support. Roll Call reported at the time, "Under the GOP plan, insurance companies would still be allowed to exclude anyone with a pre-existing medical condition from coverage, there would be no national insurance exchange and businesses would not face any mandate to provide insurance nor individuals to buy it. Boehner also left out tax credits to help the poor and middle class buy insurance -- a central pillar of most GOP reform proposals and a key feature of a four-page outline Republican leaders released in June."

The plan was quickly labeled "a major embarrassment."

Now, Cantor, McCain, and McConnell are labeling their approach "the bipartisan solution."

Ideally, the public could see the two plans, side by side, and see for themselves which party offered the more sensible solution.

It often goes unsaid, but if you were to have assembled a bipartisan group of policy wonks a couple of years ago, and asked them to put together a comprehensive plan that incorporates ideas from both parties, that expands coverage and cuts costs, they would have crafted a plan that looks an awful lot like the current Senate bill.

It's not the majority's fault that Republicans have lost their minds.


Is there enough support in the House to pass the Senate health care reform bill? By every measure, not yet. In fact, Newsweek reports that the Democratic leadership isn't just short of a majority, they're "way short."

That's the bad news. The good news is they're still working on it. (via Kevin Drum)

For now, senior lawmakers are working the phones furiously to talk up the idea of the Senate promising to retroactively unravel several distasteful components. If House Democrats make the good-faith deal, Pelosi is arguing that the Senate promise would be easy to keep. Reconciliation votes require only a 51-vote majority. Or even 50, in which case Vice President Biden could break the tie.

This aide says that leadership considers reconciliation, with the House conditioning its support on promised fixes in the Senate, as the much more strategic route than breaking the package into parts, which isn't ideal because all of the parts are interlocking. Asked what the timetable would be for that, this aide says weeks, not months.

I'm not getting my hopes up, but this at least suggests some of the Powers That Be are considering the right solution.

It's not that complicated -- the House passes the Senate bill, the Senate agrees to approve key changes through reconciliation, and the White House keeps the players together. Everyone wins (except insurance companies and the Republican Party).

So, what's in the Senate version that would need to come out? The House wants a deal on the excise-tax financing, which shouldn't be too difficult since a compromise was reached nearly two weeks ago. The House also wants to see the "Cornhusker Kickback" scuttled, which also should be fairly straightforward -- the measure was necessary to bribe win over Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and even he's not willing to stand by his ransom anymore.

There's been a lot of pressure on the House to pass the Senate bill, and for good reason. But the sooner the Senate steps up and extends meaningful assurances to the House about clear-cut changes that can be made -- and can't be filibustered -- the sooner policymakers can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Digby: It's Over
In case you were wondering, the consensus on all the Sunday gasbag shows is that Obama is an abject failure because of his radical leftist ideology and that his only hope of even maintaining the presidency, much less winning a second term is to take a sharp turn to the right and enact the Republican agenda. Several commentators, including such luminaries as political cross dresser Matthew Dowd on ABC, insisted that the first thing the president has to do is pick a huge fight with the Democrats to show the country that he isn't one of them. Cokie said he should have asked John McCain from the beginning what he was allowed to do.

The historians and expert political observers on Fareed Zakaria's CNN show all agreed that Obama is no Reagan, a president who never governed ideologically and always worked across party lines. Oh, and he needs to be a president or a prime minister, but nobody could agree on exactly what that means except that he should try to be more like Scott Brown, the white Barack Obama, except without all the liberalism.

Oddly, the Republicans weren't mentioned, although Robert Caro did note that Obama inherited something of a mess. Peggy Noonan said he ran to win not to govern and they all agreed that was a brilliant observation. Zakaria did point out that Obama had a higher approval rating at this stage than both Reagan and Clinton and that the two Bush's were higher at this point because of wars and they all stared for a moment and then went on about centrism and prime ministers again.

The Village has officially turned. I'm guessing they'll be calling for his resignation by July.

Not that I didn't know this was going to happen, but it's still amazing to see it play out exactly as I knew it would.
Congressional Republicans have invested considerable energy over the last year in trying to convince the country that economic recovery efforts were a mistake. The stimulus, the GOP insists, didn't work.

The repetition, coupled with a still-struggling economy, has proven persuasive to much of the public -- a new CNN poll finds that a majority of Americans believes the investments were wasted or spent for political reasons, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Among economists, however, we seem awfully close to complete unanimity that the Democrats' recovery effort rescued the economy from collapse, created jobs, and generated economic growth that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Among the experts, this isn't even worth debating anymore -- it's simply an obvious truth that the stimulus was effective.

USA Today published an item today after surveying a panel of economists.

President Obama's stimulus package saved jobs -- but the government still needs to do more to breathe life into the economy, according to USA TODAY's quarterly survey of 50 economists.

Unemployment would have hit 10.8% -- higher than December's 10% rate -- without Obama's $787 billion stimulus program, according to the economists' median estimate. The difference would translate into another 1.2 million lost jobs.

Not surprisingly, the economists believe there should be more stimulus, not less, including increased spending on infrastructure.

But that's almost certainly impossible, because of public opinion as reflected in the CNN poll.

  • from the comments:
    But that's almost certainly impossible, because of public opinion as reflected in the CNN poll.

    Just travel around the country and you'll hear Limbaugh talking points coming up all the time in people's conversations. I get the feeling people were laying low in their critic of Obama, but ever since Massachusetts they seem to be emboldened and are coming out of the woodwork. Listen to Rush for 20 minutes and then go out and overhear some street chatter. You'll hear a distinct echo.

    Posted by: oh my on January 25, 2010 at 9:46 AM

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