Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal is the latest to publish the notion that the President should hit the 'reset' button on health care. This notion, pushed by Republicans, is that if he and Democratic leaders simply threw out everything that has been done already and returned to the table on health care reform, they could come up with a wonderful, bipartisan bill that would make everyone happy.
Only I don't believe that this would happen. The real test of how the GOP would react to the Obama administration came back in the first few weeks as Congress debated the stimulus plan. There was a palpable sense of urgency as the economy was in free fall and jobs were being lost at a record pace. Economists gave us dire warnings that if the Government did not put together a stimulus bill quickly then we would almost certainly face a second Great Depression.
Against this backdrop the President took the unusual step of going from the White House over to Capitol Hill and sitting down with Republican leaders to try and work something out. And in the end he did work out a 'bipartisan' bill, in which the original stimulus was shaved down by 20%, all funding for new school contruction was thrown out and he got a bill that is 43% tax cuts. After this, zero Republicans in the house and three in the Senate (including Arlen Specter, who has since become a Democrat) voted for it. In other words, Republicans, including many in the house, were happy to suggest compromises, many of which were included in the bill, but then they lined up and voted uniformly against it.
Given this history, do you really believe that the GOP would really negotiate in good faith on health care?
If you do, just ask Max Baucus. For months he and two other Democrats on the Finance Committee met with three Republicans on the committee, supposedly to work out a bipartisan compromise. Despite word back in late July that the group was nearing a 'consensus' and pressure from the Senate leadership to at least come up with a committee bill by the August recess, he at the request of the Republicans agreed to continue negotiating and come back after the recess. Then two of the three Republicans he had been talking to, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) both came out during the recess and all but pledged to vote against any bill.
Yeah, 'good faith' with these guys is a knife in the back. Baucus was duped into doing what they wanted-- delaying the bill-- and by the time he came back was essentially down to one Republican he might have been able to convince (Olympia Snowe of Maine.) Snowe couldn't support his compromise for other reasons (some of which I agree with, such as the fact that individuals might be forced to pay more than they could afford just to buy insurance.) However, it is clear now that the whole GOP strategy of delaying action on the bill was what was behind Grassley and Enzi even pretending to negotiate.
As far as taking more 'time' because it's better to 'get it right than just get something done' (lofty sounding words often spoken by Republican members of Congress) a bit of history is useful here. As President Obama mentioned in his speech last week, this effort to reform the U.S. health care system and give everyone coverage began under Theodore Roosevelt. That means that there is nobody alive today who was even an adult when this started. We know that's what happened in 1993-1994 also. Republicans asked for more 'time' to be spent on the legislation but even while they were asking for time they were attacking the whole concept of reform from every angle in a (successful) bid to kill it. Then, if the GOP was really interested in 'reform' they had six years when they had control of the House, Senate and White House when they could have done something if they wanted to. So the cry that we need to take more 'time' is disingenuous at best. Senator Jim DeMint made it clear that the GOP wants to make this "Obama's Waterloo." He could give them all the time in the world and they would use it to make sure he lost, not that anything meaningful got passed.
It does seem likely that we will have a bill passed by using reconciliation (probably meaning a more liberal bill; it will be much easier to pass a bill with the public option and be able to lose up to eight Democrats than it would be to pass a bill without the public option at this point since zero Republicans will vote for it either way.) If the use of the reconciliation process is unfortunate, then so is the fact that there does not seem to be any other path forward.
And the GOP has made it that way by blocking every other path.