By sheer luck, I think I picked a fairly good time to go on vacation. Mainly what I missed is a bout of hysteria and elected Democrats coming around to the obvious. Last Wednesday, in the wake of the Coakley fiasco, I predicted that health care reform remained a better-than-even bet: Here is what I think will happen. The shock and panic will play itself out over a few days. Then the Democrats will assess the situation and realize that letting health care die represents their worst possible option. And then they will make a deal to pass the Senate bill through the House.
How does this president handle a crisis? Thus far, the answer is not at all encouraging. The current crisis is the election in Massachusetts of Scott Brown, now the forty-first Republican senator. His arrival in Washington has sent Democrats into panic mode--fearful that they too will be swallowed by a seething electorate--and caused many of them to flee in the other direction from health care reform.
Talking Points Memo has done a terrific job of reporting on the health care fiasco on Capitol Hill. But I think their latest report may be conveying a misleading impression.
Democrats in Congress have a lot to juggle in the year ahead. If they want to avoid a slaughter at the polls, they’ll need to boost job growth. Not only that, but Wall Street remains poorly regulated, and key allies are growing impatient for labor-law and immigration reform. So it’s hardly a shock to hear that some Dems would prefer to set aside tackling climate change--especially so soon after a grueling health care fight.
If there’s one area in which the House health care reform bill is obviously superior to the Senate version, it’s coverage and affordability. There’s more financial assistance for buying insurance and much stronger protection against out-of-pocket medical costs. That means more people getting coverage and fewer people struggling with expenses. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies, both on and off Capitol Hill, have made clear this is one of their top priorities for the coming negotiations over how to merge the two pieces of legislation.
Seems like the conventional wisdom in Washington right now is that there's no way the Senate passes a climate bill in 2010—especially after that long, gory health care battle we just saw. Here's The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza: "No matter what Obama and his advisers said… there is now no chance that the Administration's climate-change proposal will come up for a vote in the Senate prior to the 2010 election.
At the Atlantic, James Fallows is remembering the passage of a similarly audacious health care program, Medicare, during the 1960s: At the time I didn't register the significance of Medicare's passage--something now so engrained as part of the American Way that today's Republicans have positioned themselves as its protectors (against the alleged ravages of the Obama plan). I think that these two quick-reaction TNR articles--by Jonathan Chait, here, and Jonathan Cohn, here--do a wonderful job of registering the significance of the Senate's 60-39 vote today in favor of the bill.
WASHINGTON--Punditry in the nation's capital has its own rhythms, and one common practice involves almost everyone beating up on the same politician at the same time. Such assaults are rarely about ideology, though I have found that liberals or Democrats are often the object of these sustained attacks, perhaps because journalists are overly sensitive to charges of liberal bias. There's nothing like hitting a Democrat hard to "prove" impartiality. For quite a while, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the target of choice.
Over at Politico, public option advocate (and sometimes Treatment contributor) Jacob Hacker has some suggestions for how to improve the Senate bill, assuming it passes. And most of those suggestions involve making it look more like its House counterpart: The gaping hole left by the removal of the public option must be filled, at least partially before the final bill is passed and more fully every year thereafter. Several critical provisions in the House bill would help to fill this hole.
This morning at FireDogLake, Jane Hamsher points out that stock prices for insurance companies have risen since Joe Lieberman announced he'd filibuster reform over the public option. She ends her item with this statement: If this thing passes, and the corruption behind this bill becomes effectively demagogued by the GOP, I hope those fighting to pass this on behalf of the “poor” are going to enjoy wearing it. Hamsher is correct when she writes that the health care industry will, by and large, benefit from reform.