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.