8.30.2009

NYT On Health Care Reform: It's Reconciliation or Bust!

In today's New York Times, the editorial staff tells Democrats to stop caving and that with the death of Senator Kennedy, the must your majority rules -- reconciliation -- or risk not getting real health care reform done.

From the NY Times, Majority Rule On Health Care Reform:

With the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the Democrats do not have the votes just among their 57 members (and the two independents) to break a filibuster, and not all of these can be counted on to vote in lock step. If the Democrats want to enact health care reform this year, they appear to have little choice but to adopt a high-risk, go-it-alone, majority-rules strategy.

We say this with considerable regret because a bipartisan compromise would be the surest way to achieve comprehensive reforms with broad public support. But the ideological split between the parties is too wide — and the animosities too deep — for that to be possible.

[snip]

Mr. Obama should know from sad experience the pitfalls of seeking bipartisan cooperation from a Republican Party that has sloughed off most of its moderates and is dominated by its right wing. His stimulus package was supported by no Republicans in the House and only three Republicans in the Senate, so-called moderates whose support was won by shrinking the package below the size at which it would have done the most good.

Now the same sort of damaging retreat may be happening in the Senate Finance Committee. Three committees in the House and one in the Senate have used their Democratic majorities to approve liberal health reform bills. The only bipartisan negotiations are between a rump group of three Democrats and three Republicans on the Finance Committee who hail from largely rural states with small populations, namely Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming. Somehow this small, unrepresentative group has emerged as the focal point for bipartisan health care reform.

[snip]

Superficially seductive calls to scale down the effort until the recession ends or to take time for further deliberations should be ignored. There has been more than enough debate and the recession will almost certainly be over before the major features of reform kick in several years from now. Those who fear that a trillion-dollar reform will add to the nation’s deficit burden should remember that these changes are intended to be deficit-neutral over the next decade.

Delay would be foolish politically. The Democrats have substantial majorities in the House and the Senate this year. Next year, as the midterm elections approach, it will be even harder for legislators to take controversial stands. After the elections, if history is any guide, the Democratic majorities could be smaller.

[snip]

Knowledgeable analysts from both parties believe that these important elements of reform will probably pass muster because of their budgetary impact: expansion of Medicaid for the poor; subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance; new taxes to pay for the trillion-dollar program; Medicare cuts to help finance the program; mandates on individuals to buy insurance and on employers to offer coverage; and tax credits to help small businesses provide insurance.

Even the public plan so reviled by Republicans could probably qualify, especially if it is given greater power than currently planned to dictate the prices it will pay to hospitals, doctors, drug companies and other providers, thus saving the government lots of money in subsidies.

[snip]

Clearly the reconciliation approach is a risky and less desirable way to enact comprehensive health care reforms. The only worse approach would be to retreat to modest gestures in an effort to win Republican acquiescence. It is barely possible that the Senate Finance Committee might pull off a miracle and devise a comprehensive solution that could win broad support, or get one or more Republicans to vote to break a filibuster. If not, the Democrats need to push for as much reform as possible through majority vote.

read the entire editorial, please....
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