Reconciling the House and Senate reform bills is not going smoothly. There are numerous issues that can't be agreed on, from union opposition to the so-called "cadillac" tax, to abortion funding colliding with the House's "Stupak amendment." Conventional wisdom says that the final bill will be closer to the Senate version, which barely got a filibuster-proof sixty votes. Not so, according to Rep. Charles ("what taxes?") Rangel, who is demanding the final bill be closer to the House version, where it passed with a three vote margin.
Meanwhile, former supporters are jumping ship left and right. New York Governor Paterson (D), and California Governor Schwartznegger (R) both have come out against the bill, saying it piles unfunded mandated on their states. One wonders what took them so long to realize this, after the same thing happened with the stimulus bill. That bill extended unemployment benefits, but only funded the first year's worth, leaving the states to pick up the tab in the future.
Also worth noting is that the bill doesn't contain any of the "big fixes" that the Dems wanted. There's no "public option," and it will leave millions without health care coverage. With public opinion turning strongly against the bill, why are so many Dems willing to suffer the political price for it's passage?
I've heard President Clinton, among others, claim that failure to pass this bill is the greater political danger. Baloney. As was the case during Clinton's first term, the political writing is on the wall for the Democrats, regardless of how they vote on the health care bill. Blaming GOP "obstructionism" will ring hollow, considering the size of the Dem's majority. This bill will pass or fail on their heads, alone.
It didn't have to be this way. Had Obama, Reid, and Pelosi designed a truly bipartisan bill, they could have split the Republican votes, and given the bill a better chance of passage. Instead of saying Republicans have "no ideas," they should have included tort reform, and allowed interstate competition. Both of these ideas have wide Republican support.
Instead, they've painted themselves into a corner, with nobody to blame but themselves. The bill is now yet another unbelievably expensive "crap sandwich," following the pattern of the "bailout" and "stimulus" bills. The difference is that this bill will have a direct impact on more Americans than any of the previous ones, and the public anger over them is still growing. Do they really want to force this on the public, in an election year?
There is an opportunity for Democrats here, as well. Those who really want to "reform" health care, and insurance in a beneficial way can listen to their constituents, who are saying "no, thanks" to this bill. They can run on a platform of "doing it right" in the next session of Congress. Promise to focus on cutting the costs of health care, instead of promising to pay for everyone.
There are reasonable compromises that can be made, on both sides. At this point, it's going to take a "profile in courage" for any Democrat to stand up and kill the current bill. With so many of them already seeing the "graffiti politti" and retiring, I have to think that some of them want to stick around, and be part of the solution, rather than compounding the problem. Let's hope they're listening.