THE TREATMENT JANUARY 19, 2010
Rep. Anthony Weiner has been a uniquely valuable voice on health care over the last few months--pushing for the best possible bill, complete with a public option, but also embracing a compromise when it was the only available option. That makes his performance tonight all the more mystifying--and disappointing.
The future of health care reform rests entirely on the sentiments of rank-in-file Democrats. The White House and, I suspect, House leadership will be pushing to pass the Senate bill, as written, with an understanding that they can revise the bill later through the reconciliation process.
I think it's the smart play--and quite possibly the only play. But the original House bill barely passed. If even a handful of congressmen who voted "yes" last time vote "no" this time, reform is dead.
At the moment, nobody knows whether rank-in-file will follow the president and leadership. And that's because the rank-and-file are trying to figure out what the election--and a possible failure to pass health care reform--would mean. So what does Weiner do? He suggests on MSNBC that maybe it'd really be better to drop health care reform--and pivot to jobs. At a moment like this, it's precisely that sort of talk that can push wavering members one way or the other.
I expected that sort of talk from the likes of Senator Evan Bayh, who never showed much enthusiasm for health care reform anyway. I expected more from Weiner.