Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why the Democrats Are On Their Way To Blowing Health Care –Again

There will be a pretty long list of answers to this question but I will give you what I consider to be the number one reason.

The Democrats chose partisanship over bipartisanship.

There has been a school of thought in this town, of which I have strongly agreed with on this blog, that the only way you can do something as big and complicated and close to people’s self interests as health care is to do it in a bipartisan way.

The White House let the Democratic Congressional leaders choose a partisan route thinking they could ram something as big as health care through with their big majorities and without political cover from the center.

Now they are left with the 2009 health care reform well poisoned. Their far right opponents have, at least for now, hijacked the debate. This is no longer about health care reform. It is about just how far the American people want government to go past what has already happened this year. The new mantra is, “too far too fast.”

My sense is that when the government took over Chevrolet a switch went off in the minds of lots of middle Americans and the far right has capitalized on it. Message lost.

I firmly believe health care can only pass the Congress if in the Senate, for example, you have 70 or 75 votes. Simply, either party trying to move such a politically complex proposal has got to have bipartisan political cover. You will recall there were a ton of Democratic votes for George Bush’s Part D bill.

Whether health care reform comes from Republicans or Democrats the opposition will try to do what the opposition did in 1994 and is doing now. When the attacks start you need a bill that is not hard left or hard right but something the middle of the country can be comfortable with—you need a coalition of at least one side plus the middle. The best way to deliver that comfort to voters is to have lots of minority party folks on line with the majority—in the form of 70 or 75 Senate votes.

After this August fiasco, just how many Blue Dog arms do you think Pelosi is going to be able to break?

I will even go a step further--if this thing continues to sink the Democrats are going to have to demonstrate they clearly got the message or they will risk another defeat just as they did in the '94 elections over a health care debacle. That means dumping the architects of this mess--at least Pelosi and probably Reid.

After all, who will Pelosi have to blame? The "villain" insurance companies? I don't see any of their "fingerprints" on this.

I know there have been bipartisan efforts led by Baucus and Grassley in Senate Finance. Now, people will ask if that is the only hope left for a bill this year. The answer is no. While I have the greatest respect for these Senators, I see their effort as tantamount to trying to build a rickety bridge across a great chasm. The real problem they have faced in Senate Finance is that their parties are so far apart that it has been all but impossible for the two sides in these discussions to find anything practical to make everyone happy.

The “gang of six” from Senate Finance MIGHT come up with a compromise in September but it will be so convoluted in order to bridge the big divide that it will quickly fall flat—and that is IF the Republican party lets their three Senators even attempt to take the Dems off the hook they are dangling from.

Is health care bipartisanship a pipe dream? No. Ron Wyden figured out how to do it.
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