The Plank

Hillary Hatred, Irrational And Here To Stay

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Following up on my previous item, here's one other note about Jim Cooper, the Democratic congressman from Tennessee who appears prominently in today's David Brooks column.

Towards the end of the column, Cooper suggests that Hillary Clinton is acting just as rigidly now as she did back in 1993 and 1994 -- when she spurned his offers of compromise.  Why does he think that?  Apparently, it's because she's made such a big deal about having an individual mandate -- that is, a requirement that everybody purchase insurance.

Rather than reiterate the details of this issue for the millionth time, I'll just quote Cooper's take, as Brooks recounts it:

Cooper, who, not surprisingly, supports Barack Obama, believes that Clinton hasn’t changed. “Hillary’s approach is so absolutist, draconian and intolerant, it means a replay of 1993.”

He argues that her more coercive approach would once again be a political death knell. No Republican will support it. Red state Democrats will face impossible pressures at home. It’s smarter to begin by offering people affordable access to coverage and evolve from there.

As I said in my previous item, Cooper has worked on health care for a long time -- and seems genuinely interested in making insurance more affordable. 

Still, while the mandate does seem to be unpopular with the conservative public, I'm not so sure Republicans in Washington would reject this approach out of hand. 

Over in the Senate, Ron Wyden's bill -- which is also based on an individual mandate -- has a several Republican co-sponsors, including Bob Bennett, the very conservative senator from the very conservative state of Utah  He and others actually see the mandate as one of the plan's chief virtues, much as Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts, because they think it's a way of forcing individuals to take responsibility for their medical bills.

The House, meahwhile, has its own companion bill to Wyden's.  It goes by the same name, the Healthy Americans Act, and it, too, has an individual mandate. 

And guess who's one of the measures's three co-sponsors?  Why, that would be Jim Cooper.

-- Jonathan Cohn

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