Sunday, August 30, 2009

Health Reform and Desperate Democrats

I see by the media mouthpiece for Democrats, the New York Times editorial page, Democrats are growing desperate to get “comprehensive health reform” on the books before year’s end. The reasoning seems to be, if we don’t get in now, we’ll never get it, so we’ve got to ram it down the opposition’s throats, even if that opposition contains moderate and conservative Democrats.

Here, in part, and I quote, is the Time’s reasoning.

“Majority Rule on Health Care Reform,” Editorial August 27, 2oo9

“The talk in Washington is that Senate Democrats are preparing to push through health care reforms using parliamentary procedures that will allow a simple majority to prevail in their chamber, as it does in the House, instead of the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster that Senate Republicans are sure to mount.”

“Superficially seductive calls to scale down the effort until the recession ends or to take time for further deliberations should be ignored. There has been more than enough debate and the recession will almost certainly be over before the major features of reform kick in several years from now. Those who fear that a trillion-dollar reform will add to the nation’s deficit burden should remember that these changes are intended to be deficit-neutral over the next decade.”

“Delay would be foolish politically. The Democrats have substantial majorities in the House and the Senate this year. Next year, as the midterm elections approach, it will be even harder for legislators to take controversial stands. After the elections, if history is any guide, the Democratic majorities could be smaller.”

“The Democrats are thus well advised to start preparing to use an arcane parliamentary tactic known as “budget reconciliation” that would let them sidestep a Republican filibuster and approve reform proposals by a simple majority.”

“Republicans claim that they want to make medical insurance and care cheaper and give ordinary Americans more choices. But given their drive to kill health reform at any cost, they might well argue that these are programmatic changes whose budgetary impact is “merely incidental.”

“Another hurdle is that the reconciliation legislation covers only the next five years, while the Democratic plans are devised to be deficit-neutral over 10 years. The practical effect is that the Democrats will almost surely need to find added revenues or budget cuts within the first five years. “

“Another Senate rule, which applies whether reconciliation is used or not, requires that the reforms enacted now not cause an increase in the deficit for decades to come, a difficult but probably not impossible hurdle to surmount. “

“Clearly the reconciliation approach is a risky and less desirable way to enact comprehensive health care reforms. The only worse approach would , once the electorate has awoken to what’s at stake.”

“It is barely possible that the Senate Finance Committee might pull off a miracle and devise a comprehensive solution that could win broad support, or get one or more Republicans to vote to break a filibuster. If not, the Democrats need to push for as much reform as possible through majority vote.”

In other words, strike while the iron is hot, and the votes are there. Once the electorate has awoken to what’s at stake, the votes may not be there after the November 2010 election.

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