Having blown an easy win in the Massachusetts Senate race, DC Democrats seem intent on blowing the dreams of millions of Americans, and the best chance of reforming the health insurance industry to make it more equitable – a policy long held up as a major reason to vote Democratic. The Times reports on the search for consensus on how to move forward:
Even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi affirmed her commitment to pass far-reaching health care legislation this year, members of Congress and health policy experts began Thursday to deal with the reality that a smaller bill would have a better chance.
Passage of a comprehensive bill looked impossible after the Democrats’ loss of a Senate seat in Massachusetts. As an alternative, lawmakers in both parties said, some pieces of the bills already passed by the House and the Senate could be pulled out and packaged together in a measure that would command broad support.
The consensus measure would be less ambitious than the bills approved last year. It would extend insurance coverage to perhaps 12 million to 15 million people — and provide political cover to Democrats, who said they could not simply drop the issue after spending so much time and effort on it.
The pared-back approach would cover fewer than half of those who, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would gain coverage under the House and Senate bills. But it would not put the government on the hook for what critics say is a new entitlement, a change that would appeal to some Republicans.
Now, passage of comprehensive reform actually isn’t impossible. All it takes is for House Democrats (and Rep. Anh Cao) to vote for the Senate bill, and send it on to the President. Then, pass a separate bill including reforms that fix acknowledged flaws in that bill, and send it to the Senate where it can be passed on a simple majority by invoking the reconciliation process. The only obstacle is Democrats who think the Senate bill is too weak, and who don’t trust the Senate to pass the second bill.
Why that’s less preferable than the stripped down measure is unclear. After all, the Senate bill extends coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans. It creates a framework for future healthcare reforms that Democrats can build on for generations. It is the largest progressive social program since the Great Society. It is imperfect, but so was Social Security when it first passed. It is complicated, but so is every far-reaching and important reform that touches on 1/6 of the US economy.
The only thing that the stripped down bill offers that’s new is the supposed possibility of Republican votes. But fuck them and the horses they rode in on. Republicans got every compromise they asked for in the stimulus bill, and still voted against it en masse. Olympia Snowe got to rewrite the Senate bill however she wanted, and still voted against it, as did every Senate Republican. Republicans want this to fail. They’ve always wanted it to fail. And they’ve always wanted it to fail for the same reason. Passage of health insurance reform would bring votes to Democrats, and give no advantage to Republicans. So they will vote against anything and everything just to hurt Democrats, and especially the President.
So screw the Republicans. Force the bill through in the strongest form possible, accept that Democrats must hang together or be hanged separately come November, and move on.