The Actual Business Of Health Care
The teabag rallies are theater, but some actual substance has made its way into the health care debate this week.
First of all, the President has openly considered a partisan process to pass health care reform.
President Obama urged Democratic senators on Tuesday to persevere in trying to get a bipartisan deal on health care, but left open the possibility that they might have to pass a bill with only Democratic votes if Republicans stood in the way.
At lunch with Democrats at the White House, Mr. Obama vowed to respond to Republican attacks on his plan, which aims to guarantee insurance for all Americans while slowing the explosive growth of health costs.
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said there was “absolute unity” among members of the normally fractious Democratic conference.
“Everyone recognizes that we are going to do, if there’s any way humanly possible, a bipartisan bill,” Mr. Reid said. “We don’t want to do a partisan bill, and we hope our Republican colleagues acknowledge that. We’ll continue to work with them as long as we have to.”
I take the nods toward bipartisanship is simply what you say. The news here is Obama suggesting they must not be an obstacle. And frankly, it's about time. Chuck Grassley today actually referenced Ted Kennedy's brain tumor to try and whip up a fear of rationing. And he's one of the Republicans in the midst of bipartisan talks! They are simply not bargaining in good faith.
In an interview today with Chuck Todd, Obama reinforced the deadline for those talks in the Senate Finance Committee.
"I am glad that in the Senate Finance Committee, there have been a couple of Republicans--Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi, Olympia Snowe--who have been willing to negotiate with Democrats to try to produce a bill. But they haven't yet. And I think at some point, sometime in September, we're just going to have to make an assessment."
He says he'd "prefer" a bipartisan process. And I'd prefer dinner every night at Nobu. But I can't get that. So I eat what I can get. Obama's saying the same thing. I think everyone's ready to go to war on this. And you will see arm-twisting to end cloture like you wouldn't imagine.
Meanwhile, Jay Rockefeller is doing a good job savaging the Finance Committee talks, talks which he has been shut out of even though he chairs the Health Subcommittee on the panel. Rockefeller's tough talk will push the debate in that committee to the left, just as liberals in the House are pushing Nancy Pelosi and the leadership to the left and drawing a line on the public option. And the September deadline enforces the whole process, telling Republicans like Grassley they can either have input or watch a bill get passed without them.
That's the theory, anyway, we'll see how it works in practice.
Couple other things. Health Care for America Now has a good report personalizing the health care debate and explaining what reform will bring for every type of family. And the White House has apparently secured a win in the all-important budget nerd battle:
The White House scored a point today in its ongoing battle to convince establishment Washington that health-care reform will succeed at cutting costs even as it expands coverage. The White House and budget director Peter Orszag, as well as the House Blue Dogs, are very bullish about allowing an independent board to pursue cost-cutting measures in Medicare. But when CBO scored the measure to determine if it would be succesful, they produced a very lukewarm estimate. Today, though, a group of health-care experts sent a letter [PDF] to Obama arguing that IMAC, the independent cost-cutting board, would be very effective if done right -- and nine of the signatories are members of the CBO's Panel of Health Advisers, nearly half the membership. It's a good sign for the White House, and will help push the message that, while CBO's scores are important, the assumptions made in that office are not carved in concrete.
The CBO simply should not be the final arbiter on questions that are really outside their purview.