Howard Dean: Reconciliation Will Cause Public Option to Be Available Sooner
Lindsay Beyerstein of the Media Consortium caught up with Howard Dean after an event in New York, capturing her brief, exclusive interview with him on video.
She asked Dean what it would mean if Democrats passed healthcare reform through the Senate using budget reconciliation rules, rather than relying on the whims of faux-centrists (Snowe, Lieberman, Nelson, et al.) to get a filibuster-proof 60 votes.
His response was that reconciliation would produce a better healthcare reform bill, and not just (as Lindsay notes) because of a lessened need to water the legislation down.
Saying that "the best way to do the public option is to have it be part of Medicare," Dean points out that using reconciliation rules for a budget resolution would force the bill in this direction, because "there would be no question that an expansion of Medicare was germane and permitted in the budget resolution."
Another benefit, Dean adds, is that "for political reasons, the Democrats need to get this done by 2010, so some people can sign up for it by 2010. And the only way to do that is to use an existing bureaucracy."
The advantage isn’t just the typical desire of politicians to point at tangible results of their legislative work, either:
Implementing it [a public option] immediately for significant numbers of Americans is going to deflate all the lies that Republicans tell about this bill. Once people actually start to sign up, they’re going to find out that all those things weren’t true.
. . . Once health care reform actually goes into effect, the Republicans who are only selling fear and anger — that’s all they’re selling — that has to go away, because reality will always trump fear and anger.
Dean cites his experience with civil-unions legislation in Vermont as proof of this. All Democrats need to do is find the will to make the reality happen.