For the Obama administration, these are dark days. Poll numbers are plunging, Republican gubernatorial candidates hold big leads in important, blue-leaning states, 53% of the people in the South believe the president was born in Kenya, and public support is dwindling for the administration’s signature healthcare reform plan.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., noted, “Healthcare is going to be President Obama’s Waterloo.”
And as the leadership of the Republican Senate and House election campaigns peer into the future, they salivate as they see unemployment levels near 10% next fall, and chant, “Democrats are ‘gonna get killed.’”
So, let me make look into my crystal ball and say, it is quite premature to write the obituary for the Obama administration. That is not to say that I don’t question the sanity of its leadership. Who would even think of getting involved in a situation where the nation they are heading is dealing with the worst economic situation since the 1930s?
But to assign ownership to the Obama administration of this economic disaster after only six months in office is the kind of thing that until recently I thought only the much-maligned French voters would do.
The greatest irony about this so-called “crisis” for the Obama administration is that both Democrats and Republicans counseled the White House that the best way to avoid the kinds of problems “Hillarycare” ran into in the early 90s, was to get Congress involved in the process from the beginning.
The basics of making legislative sausage is that in the first go-around of drafting bills, everyone gets to add the provision their legislative district just has to have.
Congressional leaders believe this is just a basic way of helping freshmen, especially those in vulnerable districts.
Then, when the final bill is crafted and most congressmen’s pet provisions are left out, they can then point the finger at those cold-hearted leaders, or the White House, or everyone, for their lack of sympathy to the unique needs of their particular district.
It is also very helpful to members of Congress who persuade lobbyists to make donations to them in exchange for a provision demanded by the corporate leadership. The lobbyist can also easily point to the cold-hearted committee chairman who failed to help the company’s CEO or board, or whatever.
P.S. There are no refunds–either for the company or the congressman’s constituents.
So, let me say outright that comprehensive healthcare reform will take place, that Republicans know it, they can’t afford to kill it, and however foolish this may sound, they are now angling to take credit for it.
The reason I say this is that the current negotiations over healthcare reform follow the same pattern of the last several years.
This involves outlandish acting out by House Democrats, refusal to participate in meaningful talks by House Republicans, followed by the drafting of more responsible bipartisan legislation, legislation that will form the backbone, as well as most of the substance, of the final work product.
In other words, the real bill has not been written yet, and likely won’t be written until Sept. 15 at the earliest.
The only difference between the behavior of the House in 2007-2008 and this year is that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee has also drafted healthcare reform legislation that contains provisions that have no realistic chance of becoming law.
But the only reason that occurred is that a gravely-ill chairman was allowed to dictate way-out provisions from his sickbed because no one had the heart to caution him that his fantasies were not politically viable.
The reason healthcare legislation will ultimately be enacted is that it is being driven by industry–the insurers, the pharmaceutical companies, big business and, yes, Wall Street. That is because the present system is unsustainable. Everyone wants the best healthcare, but few want to pay for it.
Opponents of reform know the deal here. They understand that Medicare is not profitable for a lot of providers, and Medicare is growing at a rapid rate as the baby boomers retire. So as a person switches from a commercial insurer to Medicare, the profitability plunges for the payers and the providers.
Health insurers, hospitals, and yes, agents–albeit on their terms–want something done because they want more paying folks in the commercial system so they can get paid more and reduce the pressure on profitability from Medicare patients.
The true state of affairs was revealed in comments before the recess by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a moderate.
Specifically, he said the opposition of Senate Republicans is aimed at the legislation drafted by House Democrats and in the HELP Committee, not with the legislation currently being negotiated by senior members, both Republican and Democrat, of the Finance Committee.
“We respect them and their work, so I think we owe it to them to let them
finish their work,” he said of the three Republican members negotiating the bipartisan proposal.
The core area of agreement, members of both parties agree, is mandating that the insurance industry increase incentives for the uninsured to have coverage. And the consensus, according to analysts, is that the bipartisan plan will seek to raise the revenue to pay for providing access through levies on private insurance companies that offer so-called “Cadillac” plans.
Republicans didn’t raise such a fuss about costs when they pushed through a prescription drug program through Medicare with a cost of more than $700 billion over 10 years in 2003–a program that was not funded whatsoever.
But, when you are out of power, you have the luxury of getting something done and not paying any political cost for it.