Democrats didn’t see it coming: Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, neither congressional leaders nor the White House anticipated that one specific provision—the mandate requiring individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance—would spark such a ferocious political and legal backlash. Yet, nearly two years later, controversy surrounding the mandate dominates the national conversation about health care reform.
Tomorrow Mitt Romney ventures straight into the lion's den -- Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of Jonathan Cohn, where he will deliver a health care speech attempting to explain the unexplainable. Just as Luke Skywalker was bound to seek out and confront Darth Vader, Romney must confront Cohn. If Romney winds up bloodied, one hand sliced off and clinging to a weathervane with the other, he'll have done better than I expect. Romney's "Address To Jonathan Cohn And Fellow Ann Arborites"* will no doubt emphasize his federalist position.
A lot of us have been arguing, for a while, that the Democratic health care reform plan is already bipartisan, in the sense that it incorporates Republican ideas and closely resembles plans prominent Republicans have endorsed in the past. If you're not already convinced, check out this chart by Maggie Mertens of Kaiser Health News (where I also write a column). The chart compares the Senate health care bill with the proposal the late John Chafee proposed during the fight over the Clinton health care plan in 1993. Chafee was a moderate Republican from Rhode Island.
As I've been saying, the procedural critique of the Senate that some of us have been making for years is starting, but only starting to make headway into the conventional wisdom.
Twenty-five years before he became the most unlikely star in the U.S. Senate, Lincoln Chafee was a shaggy-haired nomad, fresh from a drug-enhanced stint at Brown University, shoeing horses at harness racetracks in the United States and Canada. His father, Senator John Chafee, may have been a titan of Rhode Island politics, but Linc, as he is known, had little interest in the family business. It wasn't until he grew bored with the private sector--he was working as a manager in a steel mill at the time--that he decided to enter public life.