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

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Intrigue In The Palace On Health Care

The President will apparently support and endorse the public option in his speech tonight but fall short of demanding it. More on that in a later post. Really, if the members of Congress supporting a public option don't show their mettle in this debate, it won't totally matter what the President supports.

Over the past 48 hours, the blogosphere has blown all kinds of holes in Max Baucus' bill, but on Capitol Hill people are being a bit more circumspect, probably because they just want him to pass the sucker out of his committee so we can get on with the work of health care reform. And yet even media types are slagging Baucus for delaying the same bill he could have had in June for three months for no particular reason. So clearly, his centrality to the debate has lost traction.

The center of gravity has really shifted toward Olympia Snowe. And therefore, it's good to see Robert Reich knock her trigger proposal back to kingdom come. Reich rightly notes that this idea we can devise a formula to know definitively if insureres are living up to their responsibilities is ludicrous. Therefore, corporate interests and Republicans (redundant) will just argue the numbers on the trigger and delay the public option forever. And adding a five-year delay just snuffs out all of the political energy for change.

Even better than this is Chuck Schumer arguing enthusiastically for using reconciliation for at least part of the bill - and a public option would fit that mold.

Q: I’m curious, the leadership was trying to use reconciliation as way to force Republicans to the bargaining table. Do you think that failed and do you think reconciliation is still part of the plan?

A: I think we still have to look seriously at reconciliation because even with 60 Democrats, you know, if we’re able to get somebody here from Massachusetts, it’s not easy to do.

Q: Are you planning on having an interim appointment from Massachusetts?

A: No, I don’t know. That would be up to the Massachusetts state legislature but I know they’re considering it. Ah, so, so the bottom line is that even with 60 or even if Olympia Snowe comes to some kind of agreement, it’s going to be hard, and I’ve always favored using reconciliation for good parts of the bill. I think that will get you the best bill, the strongest bill and the bill that will have the greatest positive effect on the American people. Ultimately, we’ll be judged not by whether we pass the bill, but ultimately we’ll be judged by weather it works. Leaving the bill as something that doesn’t work, even if we pass it, leads to hurting both the country and the party.

Now if THAT could only become the center of gravity opinion in the health care debate...

In addition to the slagging of Baucus-care and Snowe-care and the talking up of reconciliation, you have the insistence from House progressives to only vote for a bill with the public option. And as Anthony Weiner notes, there's a strategic component to this as well:

Dem Rep. Anthony Weiner, who’s taken on a counterintuitive and increasingly high profile role defending the public plan, just said for the first time in an interview with me that he doesn’t see “any way” he can vote for a bill without the public option in it.

“I dont see how I could,” said Weiner, when I asked whether he’d vote for a bill without a robust public plan. “I dont see any way I could.” His throwing down of the gauntlet is more striking when you consider that he’s known at home in New York as a moderate who’s not known for bucking leadership [...]

“All of the protest letters in the world don’t add up to much if you don’t finally stand up and vote No on something the President and Nancy want,” Weiner said. “There is clearly a sense that progressives in Congress are easily rolled.”

“If the Congressional left can’t pass even something as modest as a watered down public option, then frankly I don’t think anyone is going to take the left very seriously later on in this Congress,” Weiner continued. “When Blue Dogs talk, there are fewer of them but they have more influence than when progressives talk.”

Yes, this is a proxy for future fights and a means to change the dynamic in the Congress, getting respect for progressives pushing the agenda that got most Democrats in Congress elected. The combination of all of these things is adding up to a decent enough strategy, but the President is also no bystander here. More on that in a moment.

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