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I don't want to blog endlessly about healthcare reform today because, really, there's not all that much to say. I think the Senate bill in its present state is well worth passing, other people don't, and that's that.
But there's one argument that I find perplexing. Here's Howard Dean:
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.
Here's what I want to know: which one of us is living in dreamland? If you don't like the Senate bill, fine. Don't support it. But in what universe will healthcare reform get revived anytime soon if it dies this year? 2010? With the legislative plate already jammed, healthcare reform probably polling in the mid 30s, and midterms coming up? 2011? After Republicans have gained a bunch of seats in both the House and Senate thanks to public disgust with Democratic disarray? 2012? A presidential election year? 2013? 2014?
I usually don't say much about legislative tactics because I figure you need some serious ground level knowledge before you mouth off about what's possible and what's not on Capitol Hill. But the fate of failed major initiatives is so obvious that I can't believe anyone is taking this seriously. When big legislative efforts go down in flames, they almost never spring back onto the calendar anytime soon — and that's especially true when big healthcare bills fail. It didn't happen in 1936, it didn't happen in 1949, it didn't happen in 1974, and it didn't happen in 1995. What makes anyone think it will happen in 2010?
If healthcare reform dies this year, it dies for a good long time. Say what you will about the Democratic leadership, but Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer all know this perfectly well. So do John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. (Boy do they know it.) But if it passes, here's what we get:
What's more, for the first time we get a national commitment to providing healthcare coverage for everyone. It won't be universal to start, unfortunately, but it's going to be a lot easier to get there once the marker is laid down. That's how every other country has done it, and that's how we did it with Social Security and Medicare, both of which had big gaps in coverage when they were first passed.
But if we don't pass it, we don't get any of this. Not now, and not for a long time. Instead of being actual liberals, we'll just be playing ones on TV.