The White House and key Democratic senators, including Iowa's Tom Harkin, appear to be walking into a trap for the sake of bipartisan agreement on health care in the Senate.
There is growing support for a fake "public option," as opposed to a government health insurance plan that would compete directly with private insurance companies.
If Congress passes this kind of deal and President Barack Obama signs it, we will get a enormously expensive non-solution to an enormous problem, and Democrats will pay the political price.
After the jump I'll explain why political hacks as well as policy wonks should refuse the latest efforts to derail the public option.
UPDATE: Check out the numbers from a brand-new New York Times/CBS nationwide poll: Asked, "Would you favor or oppose the government's offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private insurance plans?" 72 percent of respondents said "favor," including 87 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and 50 percent of Republicans.
To Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), health care reform is the great "unrequited love" of progressives. "It goes back to Harry Truman," he told me during a sit-down interview today. "Every 15 years or so, there's an effort to fix health care. Every time, progressives have said, 'This is the moment, my dream of universal health care will be achieved!' ... Something goes wrong, and it goes by the boards."
His realistic assessment of health care's progress during the past half-century made his prediction for 2009 all the more remarkable: Wyden believes there is "a real path to 65 to 70 votes" in the Senate for a health bill that gives all Americans access to "good-quality, affordable coverage".
In fact, he added, major health reform could receive a vote in Congress by the summer. So is it really time for progressives to start believing in love again? Or should we heed Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), another influential lawmaker on health care, when he says health care should wait until next year?
There is a great deal of legwork to be done before the Democrats can come anywhere close to rounding up the 60 votes to invoke cloture on legislation ensuring that every American has healthcare coverage, let alone garnering a 65- to 70-vote supermajority mentioned by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who has already done a great deal of legwork on healthcare reform. In the Senate alone, as Schor notes elsewhere in her article, an agreement between Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy and Senate Finance Committee Chairman must be forged, which is not a foregone conclusion.
That said, with 59 Democrats in the Senate -- not all of whom will assuredly vote for healthcare reform, but the vast majority of whom would -- the Democrats are already tantalizingly close to being able to break a Republican filibuster against universal healthcare. So who knows? Barack Obama just might be able to do in one term, or even one year, what Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton weren't able to in their collective time in the White House -- insuring all Americans.
by Sarah Lane, Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 10:27:28 AM EST
Last night, hundreds of volunteers came out to rally for Barack Obama and Jeff Merkley. Governor Howard Dean, Senator Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley energized the crowd before the canvassers hit the streets for Merkley and Obama....
Full disclosure, I am the netroots director for OR-Sen candidate Jeff Merkley
You guys absolutely rocked the Franken Road to 60 money bomb earlier so let's try to help out our other newest member of the Road To 60 list, Jeff Merkley who's running against faux moderate Bush enabler Gordon Smith up in Oregon.
Tonight at 7pm PDT Merkley and Smith face off at their first debate. It will be streaming live HERE.
Assuming the feed works, I'll be liveblogging the debate and in return, you'll be filling Merkley's coffers at our Road To 60 ActBlue page. Fair deal, right? Let's shoot for 15 new donors to Merkley by the end of the debate.
In the meantime, let's hear it for current Democratic Senator from Oregon Ron Wyden who shot an ad for Jeff.
Update [2008-10-9 22:3:11 by Todd Beeton]:Some great pictures of outside the debate at Sarah Lane's DailyKos diary.
I'm getting nothin on the livestream, which is appropriate since I have been plagues with technical mishaps. Yes, Mercury is in retrograde if you believe in that stuff (and I'm starting to.) So I'll be updating from what I read on other liveblogs. It's so meta.
Update [2008-10-9 22:44:32 by Todd Beeton]:Wow, and here's another interesting srategy of Smith's: oppose windfall profits taxes on oil companies. This is a perfect point of contrast between these two guys. Smith mumbles something about businesses leaving Oregon b/c of protectionism; Merkley says he supports windfall profits tax and that "70,000 living wage jobs exported because of Smith's tax and trade policies." Nice.
Update [2008-10-9 23:4:42 by Todd Beeton]:Smith's McCain moment when asked to name 3 positive things about his opponent's record (via Sarah Lane):
Smith: I think Jeff's daughter is cute even in an ad against me. His wife is nice.
Moderator asks Smith to say something about his voting record. Smith is stumped.
Merkley: One is his support tobacco tax, mental health parity and your support to take on hate crimes.
Smith: Jeff said some nice things about me.
Even the moderator pointed out that Smith wouldn't say anything nice about Jeff. She gave Smith another chance and he couldn't answer. Pathetic. Looking familiar, folks? The Democrat outclassing the Republican.
Update [2008-10-9 23:4:42 by Todd Beeton]:A climate change question and Merkley goes on the attack: "Until very recently Smith didn't believe in global warming." Is that true? And this guy got elected in Oregon? Crike.
Update [2008-10-9 23:4:42 by Todd Beeton]:Over at Blue Oregon commenters are calling this game changing. The stark contrast between the two both superficially and substantively. Of course they might be biased.
Update [2008-10-9 23:4:42 by Todd Beeton]:Closing statements. Merkley: "I have been fighting for Oregon families and workers, kicked out the predatory lenders, established rainy day fund, I'll carry the same battle to the Senate. I'll end the war, invest in alternative energy, education, restore oversight to K street." He also talked about Smith canceling out Wyden's vote "1700 times." VERY interesting line of attack. Smith is boasting about being the 50th most liberal Senator -- right in the middle and Merkley is a liberal (Oh noes!) He also says Merkley would leave rural Oregon behind. That's your case, Gordo? That's all you got. Lame.