As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Obama Wants

Robert Gibbs sez Obama "wants" a bipartisan bill. I want a recording session with Styx. (That's right, Styx) It's not going to happen, however. So he can "want" something all he wants, even say it publicly, but if he wants a bill, he's going to have to go it alone. And I think Obama recognizes that.

The President has also said that he "wants" a public option in the bill. It's funny how it's given as Beltway conventional wisdom that reality is intruding on the ability to get a public option, but not on bipartisanship. Especially when you look at the numbers, with no Democrat committing to filibuster health care reform, but 64 Democrats in the House vowing to vote against any bill without a public option. Beltway types aren't really good at math.

Maybe they can read a poll.

Just 34% of voters nationwide support the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats if the so-called "public option" is removed. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% oppose the plan if it doesn't include a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurers.

There are multiple positive elements to be gained from a health care reform bill as set out by Congress - Families USA lists ten of them very succinctly right here - but the lack of messaging from the White House created a vacuum, and the public plan slid into that space. It cannot be bargained away at this point, as it's become synonymous with reform. Clamping down on insurers is great (though who, exactly, will do that?), and I want to see Medicaid expanded and subsidies for those who can't afford coverage and real competition through an exchange. And modernizing health care delivery and Medicare spending, cutting waste from the system and securing give-backs from providers is all awesome. But the politics of the situation are such that the public option can no longer be decoupled from the bill. Indeed, the intensity and energy around the public option is the only thing sustaining the bill, as it completely changed the conversation from right-wing tea partiers and gun-toting loonies to policy considerations. Even with supporters outnumbering the opposition, the town hall meetings gambit was a losing bet and it would have threatened reform severely. Obama has a chance to deliver on what he says he "wants" now, which would burnish his credentials among the base and create the energy needed to drag legislation over the finish line.

I guess it all depends on what he wants: bipartisanship, or a public option.

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