Free Markets, Free People

Is Senate Health Care Reform bill dead? And does Obama have a fallback plan? (Update)

It is looking more and more like the support for passing the pending Senate Democratic version of the health care bill just isn’t there – among Democrats. Deaths and recent resignations in the House, as well as pro-life Democrats, make getting the required number of votes to pass that legislation – unchanged as necessary – virtually impossible. Unless the House passes that legislation Democratic members of the Senate are saying the process is dead. Even Sen. Robert Byrd has gotten into the act addressing Democratic Senate colleagues by letter and warning against changing filibuster rules in order to advance their legislative priorities

That leaves us with today’s scheduled televised health care summit.  What’s its purpose?  My contention has been it’s a bit of political theater to convince the public that the Republicans are the problem (both generally and specifically).  But it also appears a bit of political reality is beginning to settle on the White House. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama may introduce the idea of a vastly scaled back plan if he determines that the present plan isn’t going to make it. Given the difficulty outlined above of passing what is presently pending in Congress, this may be the result of the summit – a new and much smaller approach to passing something called “health care reform”. Says the WSJ:

It would do that by requiring insurance companies to allow people up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ health plans, and by modestly expanding two federal-state health programs, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, one person said. The cost to the federal government would be about one-fourth the price tag for the broader effort, which the White House has said would cost about $950 billion over 10 years.

If, in fact, that’s the plan, then it is hardly what anyone would call “reform”. SCHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) has already been expanded – it was one of the first bills Obama signed. Additionally, the expansion of Medicaid won’t please state who mostly pay for the program. Lastly, such a bill would do nothing to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room – what is necessary to bring costs in the federal programs (Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP) under control. That is where the problem is to be found – not in private insurance. It also leaves those things the GOP and the right want where they our now – left out.

If that’s the result of today’s summit, it will be considered by all sides to be a failure. It will obviously be spun by the usual suspects in the administration as a rousing success. However, what has to be kept in mind is even this would have to pass through Congress and that’s not at all a sure thing anymore with the election of Scott Brown, breaking the filibuster proof majority formerly enjoyed by the Democrats.

It’ll be interesting to see how this summit turns out today. Reviewing the list of those invited, I don’t expect much in the way of compromise or bi-partisanship. And that’s fine with me.

UPDATE: Gallup weighs in with a poll about the health care summit and the mood of the public:

Americans are skeptical that lawmakers will agree on a new healthcare bill at Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit in Washington, D.C. If an agreement is not reached, Americans by a 49% to 42% margin oppose rather than favor Congress passing a health care bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate. By a larger 52% to 39% margin, Americans also oppose the Democrats in the Senate using a reconciliation procedure to avoid a possible Republican filibuster and pass a bill by a simple majority vote.

I agree the skepticism is warranted. 49% of independents oppose passage with 24% strongly opposing it in that poll (only 8% strongly favor it). Also note the overwhelming margin concerning the use of reconciliation. Again, looking at independents, 53% oppose it with 25% strongly opposing it (only 9% strongly favor it). I believe that could be deemed “fair warning” to Democrats.



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10 Responses to Is Senate Health Care Reform bill dead? And does Obama have a fallback plan? (Update)

  • I think the whole summit idea is odd. It causes me to wonder if anyone in the White House knows how to calculate risk and reward. I know lots of electrons have been spilled about the likely downside for the Republicans. But really, how much downside risk is there for them? They’ve been pilloried form one end of the nation to the other as obstructionists. They go into this thing with the President waving his new and improved plan, (now with MORE COWBELL), which isn’t really much different than what is on offer from the House or the Senate.
    If you assume, as I do, that most people are going to learn of the results from summaries on the nightly news, what results are they going to see? It’s not like the headline is going to be “President’s BOLD Compromise Rejected by GOP”.
    I just think that he is actually courting a greater risk than he thinks. Big deal summits, like they have between nations, are always wrapped with a bow before the leaders sit down at the table. That’s the expectation, big deal summits deliver big deal results. People have been conditioned to expect results and I don’t think they are going to get that.
    He would have been better off having a two week long series of skull sessions between the Ds and the Rs, where he dropped in occasionally to “move things along”.

    • Good points, Steve. And you’re right to note that there is a risk for the administration inherent in the fact that the results are unknown and could redound on them should the summit be deemed a failure.

      Your last point about skull sessions, however, addresses my suspicions that there is a large element of political theater involved. I agree your suggestion would have been much more practical and may have had a better chance of actually producing a compromise result. That’s why I’m suspicious of the motives behind the televised “summit” and remain so. But as I think about it more, I realize that Obama won’t be the only one playing before the camera. And that makes it even less likely that anything of substance will come out of this. Again, that’s fine with me.

    • Let’s chek out those skull sessions between the Ds to get a preview how that might work …

      WASHINGTON — Tempers were fraying in the White House Cabinet Room as night turned into morning on Jan. 15. President Obama had been cloistered nearly all day with House and Senate Democrats, playing “marriage counselor,” an aide said, as he coaxed, cajoled and prodded them on a health care overhaul.
      As the clock neared 1 a.m., the two sides were at an impasse. Mr. Obama stood up.
      “ ‘See what you guys can figure out,’ ” one participant remembers him saying, adding that the failed effort left the president mad. Another Democrat who was there, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, said Mr. Obama left “frustrated that while he was putting out ways to bridge the problem, we hadn’t reached a conclusion.”

      Even that campaign promise about being good at getting people in a room to work out a compromise seems pretty vacuous.

      • I wonder if a community organizer has an easier time of it because the people he is dealing with look up to him as the smart, educated lawyer and defer to his knowledge, whereas in dealing with Congress, they are also smart, educated lawyers, and thus its like herding cats?

    • Imeme is doubtless counting on MiniTru to cover for him, to ensure that any mistatements he makes are not re-aired, that the only images of him show him looking cool, empathic, and “presidential”, and that the GOP are all made to look like intransigent fools.

      Ultimately, I don’t think much will come out of this other than to harden the positions of both sides.  I’m not even sure that it will sway that many independents because, at the end of the day, Imeme is still trying to pass a bill that they don’t like.  Whether or not he looks presidential (hah!), or whether or not the GOP look like obstructionists, the bill S-U-C-K-S.  All the summits in the world won’t change that.

      Pass this thing at your peril, democrats.

  • “I don’t count my time because I’m the President”

    And he certainly looks pretty bored to boot (face in hand) or like he doesn’t want to be there

    All that’s left is for him to do a famous middle finger move.

    Can this piece of trash even act presidential for 2 minutes?

  • “Can this piece of trash even act presidential for 2 minutes?”

    The Presidency is beneath him. Whereas the psychopathic Bill Clinton believed that he was the Presidency, Obama finds it an inconvenience and unworthy of him. It’s as if Lenin had reluctantly agreed to being Tsar. The top job, perhaps, but very much unworthy of his sublime talents.

  • As this six hour circlejerk continues, who knows what they’re up to back at the White House.

    That’s a lot of hours during which more and more irreversible ruin can be laid in.

    Could it be foreign policy ruin? National security ruin? Social ruin? Ruin for elections? Ruin for business? Ruin for employment?

    Obama’s instruction before leaving for Blair House: “When I come back here, I want to see the American position in the global economy irreversibly damaged. And if I don’t see that, then there will be hell to pay. Isn’t that right, Michelle? Now, get busy, and God damn America.”