Time to Throw Some Elbows on Health Care Reform, Mr. President
It’s becoming obvious now that the protracted drama of the Senate Finance Committee, long feared to be the beginning of the end for meaningful healthcare reform, really was just the end of the beginning. Now that a version of the bill has been pried loose from Sen. “Max Tax” Baucus and his committee, the real negotiations — and posturing — have started.
That’s why Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh are making noises about not ruling out a filibuster — but hey, they can be bribed persuaded not to join one, too!– and why Jay Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer (and Nancy Pelosi, on the House side) are applying pressure in the media for a robust public option. Everyone’s jockeying for position.
Jon Walker’s post at FDL Action today sums up the state of play nicely with a quote from Tom Harkin:
There are 52 solid Democrats for a public option and only about five Democrats really kind of opposed to it…. One has to ask if the 52 should give into the five or if the five should come on board with the vast majority.
And you know what? That’s how everyone knew (or should have known) this was going to wind up back in January — with a handful of faux-centrist Senators threatening to sabotage a Democratic president for at least the third straight time, and everyone else wondering how to get around that obstacle.
But this also means that of all people, Barack Obama should have a plan for how to deal with this situation. I’ve been more naive optimistic than most of the writers here, holding out hope that Obama really does want a public option in the final healthcare bill — not out of his innate progressive nature or the goodness of his heart (always a bad bet when it comes to politicians), but due to his own stated recognition that whatever passes needs to work, or he’s going to pay the political price for the resulting fiasco just as surely as if the bill had been defeated.
That’s why I’m not surprised to read that Harry Reid is reportedly working behind the scenes “for the best possible public option coming out of conference” (though those last four words are worth noting, and perhaps being alarmed over), or to see Nancy Pelosi’s forthright defense of a public option yesterday just before appearing with President Obama at two events in San Francisco (where his praise of her would seem odd if she’d just thrown his alleged secret desire to kill the public option under the bus).
But now’s the time for Obama to stop forcing us to imagine what his real intentions are. We all know how solicitous he’s been of Max Baucus’s endless delays and whatever whim Olympia Snowe chooses to express on any given day, and not openly pressuring Democratic senators who have spoken against a public option. I’ve tried to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, figuring that he’s worked directly with these bozos colleagues in the Senate and knows what preening, obnoxious assholes they are how sensitive they are to being pressured.
At the end of the day, though, he’s got to persuade them to do the right thing. And the end of the day is rapidly approaching.