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Progressives Return Fire, Demand to Kill the Bill

While President Obama was not entirely certain in his message coming out of discussions with the Senate Democratic caucus, it’s hard to see the Senate actually faltering at this point. Sherrod Brown is still on the bill, however grudgingly. Al Franken told me, referring to reconciliation, “I’ve always said I support getting folks affordable accessible health care coverage. I’m less concerned about the tactics to get there than I do the result. That said, I believe we’ll have 60 votes and I believe we’ll pass this historic piece of legislation the traditional way.”

Bernie Sanders called the removal of the public option “disturbing,” but ultimately he’s likely to be there in the end along with the rest of the caucus. With Olympia Snowe unlikely to support the bill under the preferred timeline, they will all be needed. So if anything, the bill will get worse from this point in the Senate. Especially because the AARP and other groups like the SEIU are locked onto cloture, and if the public option didn’t wave them off, nothing will.

Outside the Senate, leaders are slowly coming out against the bill. From the point of opinion leadership, Howard Dean will come out later today and say that Democrats should kill the Senate bill.

“This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”

…Dean essentially said that if Democratic leaders cave into Joe Lieberman right now they’ll be left with a bill that’s not worth supporting.

But Dean is not alone in this opinion. The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House are saying basically the same thing. Raul Grijalva said today that he wouldn’t support the bill if it’s not fixed in conference, and added “since the Senate won’t use reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes, it doesn’t look promising for any real change.”

Lynn Woolsey went further on MSNBC right before President Obama spoke, saying that the lack of a public option will threaten Democratic efforts in 2010, and that “I don’t know that I could vote” for the Senate bill, which she said woud not accomplish competition to the private insurance companies. Woolsey even brought up the most nettlesome problem for those who want to pass this bill, taking direct aim at the individual mandate:

No, insurance regulations are not enough. We should have a bill that includes all of that, but don’t call it health care reform, call it insurance company reform. We should have done that years and years ago, but at least we’ve stepped up to at least talk about it. But with all that in there, and the idea that the premiums can skyrocket, no what have we accomplished? We’ve told everybody they get to have health insurance, in fact they must have health insurance, but they won’t be able to afford it.

This is a very dangerous problem for the health care bill. . .   The individual mandate, especially when explained in the way Woolsey did, is deeply unpopular. People are not aboard with handing over cash, by force of law, to private companies. This is something that unites a number of factions on the bill. Dave Johnson put this best:

“Most other countries provide health care as a right – a core function of government. But here privateers have seized it for themselves for profit. So to maintain this, to keep taxes low for the rich and keep the profits privatized we are ordered to buy it from companies instead of having it provided as a government service. This is the battle between democracy and corporatization.”

There is an argument to be made that the individual mandate is bad policy and bad politics, and yet it undergirds all of the other deals made with stakeholders on health care. Without the mandate, insurance companies won’t take all comers. And if the insurance regulations disintegrate, you really have nothing.

Expect a sustained assault on the individual mandate over the next few days.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Progressives Return Fire, Demand To Kill The Bill

While President Obama was not entirely certain in his message coming out of discussions with the Senate Democratic caucus, it’s hard to see the Senate actually faltering at this point. Sherrod Brown is still on the bill, however grudgingly. Al Franken told me, referring to reconciliation, “I’ve always said I support getting folks affordable accessible health care coverage. I’m less concerned about the tactics to get there than I do the result. That said, I believe we’ll have 60 votes and I believe we’ll pass this historic piece of legislation the traditional way.”

Bernie Sanders called the removal of the public option “disturbing,” but ultimately he’s likely to be there in the end along with the rest of the caucus. With Olympia Snowe unlikely to support the bill under the preferred timeline, they will all be needed. So if anything, the bill will get worse from this point in the Senate. Especially because the AARP and other groups like the SEIU are locked onto cloture, and if the public option didn’t wave them off, nothing will.

Outside the Senate, leaders are slowly coming out against the bill. From the point of opinion leadership, Howard Dean will come out later today and say that Democrats should kill the Senate bill.

“This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”

…Dean essentially said that if Democratic leaders cave into Joe Lieberman right now they’ll be left with a bill that’s not worth supporting.

But Dean is not alone in this opinion. The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House are saying basically the same thing. Raul Grijalva said today that he wouldn’t support the bill if it’s not fixed in conference, and added “since the Senate won’t use reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes, it doesn’t look promising for any real change.”

Lynn Woolsey went further on MSNBC right before President Obama spoke, saying that the lack of a public option will threaten Democratic efforts in 2010, and that “I don’t know that I could vote” for the Senate bill, which she said woud not accomplish competition to the private insurance companies. Woolsey even brought up the most nettlesome problem for those who want to pass this bill, taking direct aim at the individual mandate:

No, insurance regulations are not enough. We should have a bill that includes all of that, but don’t call it health care reform, call it insurance company reform. We should have done that years and years ago, but at least we’ve stepped up to at least talk about it. But with all that in there, and the idea that the premiums can skyrocket, no what have we accomplished? We’ve told everybody they get to have health insurance, in fact they must have health insurance, but they won’t be able to afford it.

This is a very dangerous problem for the health care bill. The individual mandate, especially when explained in the way Woolsey did, is deeply unpopular. People are not aboard with handing over cash, by force of law, to private companies. This is something that unites a number of factions on the bill. Dave Johnson put this best:

“Most other countries provide health care as a right – a core function of government. But here privateers have seized it for themselves for profit. So to maintain this, to keep taxes low for the rich and keep the profits privatized we are ordered to buy it from companies instead of having it provided as a government service. This is the battle between democracy and corporatization.”

There is an argument to be made that the individual mandate is bad policy and bad politics, and yet it undergirds all of the other deals made with stakeholders on health care. Without the mandate, insurance companies won’t take all comers. And if the insurance regulations disintegrate, you really have nothing.

Expect a sustained assault on the individual mandate over the next few days.

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David Dayen

David Dayen