Pete Stark

The former fake bikini contest judge is now a congressman.

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If you follow health care reform, you probably want to know if President Obama saved health care reform with his State of the Union address. The answer is no. But that's only because there's no way he could save it with just one speech. It's too big a job. All Obama could do Wednesday night was to send some messages, about his expectations and priorities. And there I think he did pretty much what he needed to do. Keep in mind that Obama was really addressing two separate audiences: The public and the Congress.

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The majority of House Republicans opposed the Democrats’ $210 billion physician payment bill--which passed this afternoon on a 243-183 vote--accusing the legislation of increasing the deficit by relying on federal borrowing through Medicare to pay for itself.

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David Frum was just on CNN, explaining that President Obama had blown it on health care by embracing the "hyper-ideological" House bill. He's not the first one to make this argument. But I don't really see it. A single-payer plan might qualify as hyper-ideological. A plan like the one Congressman Pete Stark once proposed, in which everybody without employer-sponsored coverage ended up in Medicare, might also qualify as hyper-ideological. But the House bill?

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Surgical Prep

If you believe what the pundits are saying, enacting universal health insurance in the next year won't be difficult: It will be impossible. As the argument goes, it would cost too much money, antagonize too many interest groups, and--given the difficulty of finding 60 votes in the Senate--require too much raw political muscle. Even before Barack Obama won the election, allies were advising him to stay far away from major health care legislation, lest he fail as miserably as Bill Clinton did when he famously tried for universal coverage back in 1994.

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