The Senate Finance Committee is starting its markup hearings this morning. At the moment, Republican Orrin Hatch is speaking--and making the same point fellow Republican Charles Grassley did. The reason bipartisanship broke down, Hatch says, is that Obama rushed the process. If only he'd given the two parties more time to work out a deal, there'd be a bill with strong support from both parties. Um, no. We've been engaged in a serious debate about health policy since the very first days of the 2008 presidential campaign; Congress has been talking about it since last summer.
Multiple outlets are reporting that when Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus introduces his health reform bill tomorrow, it will not have any Republican endorsements. (Update: it's out, and here's my initial reaction.) That means no support from Mike Enzi or Charles Grassley, which isn't surprising. It also means no support from Olympia Snowe, which is a little bit surprising. Snowe is the Republican most serious about reform and working with Democrats.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus says he will release a health care bill* very soon, maybe in the next 24 hours. And we already have a pretty good idea what it will look like, thanks to an outline Baucus has distributed to the Gang of Six--the bipartisan group with which he’s been trying to hammer out a compromise. Sources inside the Finance Committee say that the formal bill will look a lot like that proposal, with some minor modifications.
Now that Obama’s Big Speech is over, the focus of the health care debate has moved swiftly back to the Senate Finance Committee, as it prepares to release its own bill next week. At a press conference on Capitol Hill today, the Senate Democratic leadership stood before a bold blue sign with their newly minted slogan: “The Season for Action Is Now.” It's a variation on a line from Obama’s speech, “Now is the season for action.” The question now is where that action should take place--and what kind of action should be.
The August recess began with critics attacking health care reform because of its high price tag. It ended with critics attacking health care reform because of how reformers proposed to reduce that high price tag. The intervening weeks were nightmarish: Instead of using August to showcase what reform could do for the average American, the White House spent most of its time knocking down rumors of death panels for the sick and elderly. And as the right became energized, the left grew disillusioned, as much by the administration’s backroom deals as by its ineffectual messaging.
Even before Ted Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer late last month, Republicans were suggesting that health care reform had suffered in his absence--not because Kennedy was so devoted to the cause, but because he would have cut a deal with the Republicans. “In every case, he fought as hard as he could . . .
WASHINGTON--President Obama can still secure major health care legislation this year if he learns from his mistakes in recent months and spends more time reminding Americans why they were once eager for fundamental change. His White House lost sight of the need to make a strong case that reform would deliver specific benefits to the insured as well as the uninsured.
Ruth Marcus has a column today about Charles Grassley and the prospects for bipartisan health care reform. Marcus treats the prospect that Grassley will support health care reform as an uncertain prospect, albeit one withdim prospects. On the negative side, she reports, Grassley believes that supporting reform could cost him his Senate seat to a GOP challenger and, even if he survives, make Republicans strip him of his seniority on the Judiciary Committee.
'We should not have a government plan that will pull the plug on grandma." That's not Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin talking. That's Charles Grassley, the supposedly respectable Republican senator from Iowa, speaking before a town hall in August. Grassley knows better, of course. As the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, he's been immersed in the issue for months.
As if his suggestion that Americans had "every right to fear" the fictional death panels wasn't distracting enough, Charles Grassley has further stoked the Republican base by reawakening that classic conservative bogeyman: the "fairness doctrine," a defunct FCC provision that neither the Democratic administration nor congress has any interest in bringing back. Grassley's latest concern comes from the appointment of Mark Lloyd, a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, as the FCC's chief diversity officer.