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The Two Dirtiest Words for Congress This Election Year: Health Care

I seem to remember an analogy during the health care debate from Tom Harkin, about the Affordable Care Act being a starter home. It wasn’t perfect, he said, but over time, Congress would add to that home, and fix it where it’s broken, and eventually create a fine stately mansion where the starter home once stood.

At least in the near term, there’s no way that’s happening.

Healthcare reform fatigue has set in among Democrats, casting doubt that Congress will move much health-related legislation the rest of this session […]

Blue Dog Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who voted for the health overhaul, said the debate has shifted to the Obama administration, which must now implement the bill.

“The healthcare bill is done,” Pomeroy said. “The action on healthcare is now in the executive branch as they implement the bill. It’s critically important that they implement it in a sound way, and I believe the attention of Congress is best spent on overseeing the sound implementation of this bill.”

Democratic leaders say they’ve heard members’ concerns and don’t intend to push more controversial healthcare votes.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) agreed with the premise that “members would be wary of major health legislation after we’ve spent so much time — we do have other priorities.”

I don’t totally disagree with Waxman, there are more priorities than just health care on Congress’ plate.

But this comes at a time when health insurance companies continue to put up record profits and significantly hike premiums, often based on outright fraudulent data about increasing health costs. Dianne Feinstein and Jan Schakowsky think they have legislation, in the form of a federal insurance rate review board, that would slow down the skyrocketing premium prices. They even held a press conference yesterday with Health Care for America Now to tout it. The White House even supports the idea in public.

Why can’t they be honest about this? No health care legislation is moving for at least the rest of the year. Probably very little else is moving, too, but as far as health care, it’s done. What you see is what you get, at least in the near term. The random lawmaker can talk about insurance company greed and the like, but there are too many Democrats who didn’t want a target on their back in the form of a big bill to begin with, and certainly don’t want to do the necessary work to adjust it to the benefit of Americans.

This stands in contrast to the common theory about major legislation, that it improves over time as Congress tweaks and expands the law. But there’s just no appetite for that. And after November, it’s highly likely there won’t be the votes.

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David Dayen

David Dayen