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Tilting at Windmills

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June 28, 2009

THE PARTIES ARE SUPPOSED TO DISAGREE.... On ABC News' "This Week," presidential advisor David Axelrod said the health care bill "will be bipartisan by definition." By way of an explanation, he added, "The Senate health committee accepted 82 Republican amendments. Republican ideas will be included with this process, we hope it will come with Republican votes as well."

Soon after, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the leading Republican negotiators on health care, said the 82 Republican amendments that were approved don't count. "Those were strictly technical," Grassley said this morning. "And Republicans are not going to hoodwinked into calling that a bipartisan bill."

The back and forth pointed to an obvious truth that the political establishment doesn't seem to like: the two major parties don't agree on health care reform.

Congressional Republicans are finding much to dislike in Democratic health care proposals, illustrating the immense difficulty Democrats face in fashioning an overhaul that can attract enough Republican support to be portrayed as bipartisan. [...]

Asked how many Senate Republicans could sign on to developing Democratic plans, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, author of a Republican alternative, said: "I think right now, none. Zero."

Grassley added that even in the unlikely event Democrats are able to find a few Republicans to support their reform efforts, it wouldn't count as a "bipartisan bill" unless a lot of Republicans sign on.

Several GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, have said they're open to the possibility of a bipartisan effort, just so long as health care reform doesn't cost a lot of money, doesn't raise taxes, doesn't adversely affect the insurance companies, doesn't include a public option, and doesn't give the government more influence in the system. As long as Dems can agree to these conditions, everyone can get along just fine.

Maybe now would be a good time to remind the relevant players that there are different political parties for a reason. Democrats and Republicans are -- I hope you're sitting down -- supposed to disagree.

They have very different policy agendas, driven by different worldviews. That they're struggling to agree on how to pass the most sweeping overhaul of the health care system isn't surprising; that they're trying to overcome this is.

A.L. noted this week:

For as long as I can remember, the Democratic party has fought to increase the government's role in providing health care coverage for Americans while the Republican party has fought to reduce the government's role. The Democrats are responsible for Medicare, Medicaid, and S-CHIP; the Republicans fought all of those initiatives. On a policy level, the Democrats believe that the best health and cost outcomes can be achieved by increasing access and encouraging widespread use of routine and preventative medical care. Republicans, on the other hand, have routinely identified the problem as over-consumption of care. Their proposals to fix the system inevitably involve significant deregulation with the goal of encouraging the use of high-deductible policies to try to discourage personal consumption of health care. Nearly every Democrat (including the blue dogs and "centrists") believes this to be bad policy.

In other words, there is virtually no common ground between the parties. The parties don't even see eye-to-eye regarding basic goals and policy assumptions.

There's nothing wrong with this. It's nice and pleasant when both sides can agree, and President Obama probably hoped the situation was so severe, Republicans would put aside many of their preconceived ideological objections to reform, and work in good faith towards obvious, common-sense solutions. That's not going to happen, of course, but that's not necessarily awful. The political system expects the parties to argue with one another. It's a feature, not a bug.

It looks like the opposition party is going to criticize and object to the Democrats' health care reform effort. That's what opposition parties do -- they oppose.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) asked the other day, "[D]o you want to be non-partisan and get nothing? Or do you want to be partisan and end up with a good health- care plan? That is the choice."

The process will probably go much smoother once negotiators come to grips with this.

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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The republicans intended to vote against healthcare reform from the outset. Dr. Dean was correct when he told dems to forget about bipartisianship on healthcare, just get the job done.

Posted by: majii on June 28, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

I think it might be time to leave the Republicans in the dust on healthcare reform. And say that as a big supporter of bipartisanship who believes in a sane, functioning second or third party as a check on the party in power.

However, healthcare is too desperately important, particularly in the longterm economic shakeout we're in the middle of. For-profit is not the best approach.

Leave most of the insurance companies in the dust too. The GOP is protecting the insurance industry's stream of profits. They're middlemen and bureaucrats who provide little value added.

Public option: yes, unquestionably. Single payer: might be the best option and deserves a good hard look. Does it provide the most coverage for the buck or not? Where do you get the most benefit for money spent? Spending our taxes on better public health could be money very well spent and an outcome not available in the private sector.

Politicians: please look at what is going on under the surface. Those who shout "socialism" loudest are a noisy minority fed by a for-profit ideological news stream.

They are not representative. Period.

Posted by: Grace on June 28, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

It will be truly bipartisan when the Democrats bend over and accept Grassley's methods of using corn cobs for certain Preparation H problems.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 28, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

I find myself in agreement with Jello Jay on this. I would call and tell him, but I'm sure he'll be provided a copy of this online communication as part of my routine monitoring for subversive activity. See? The Bill of Rights was just sloing our communciation.

Enough snark. I agree with Steve's point, and I wish we could just stop watering down good Democratic ideas to chase the idea of "bipartisanship" for Republicans who will NEVER vote for real healthcare reform. I think they know its a real threat to their electoral propects in the South (hard to demonize the party that helped keep your loved one from dying of cancer, or kept you out of bankruptcy after your baby was born 3 months early)

Posted by: ChicagoPat on June 28, 2009 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

I am praying it will not be bipartisan. Anything the gop might add would only make it worse.

Posted by: CDW on June 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK


Let's hope that President Obama is just delaying action on gay rights and that he is just holding back on strong statements on behalf of the public option as an essential part of health care reform. Will he say "I will veto any bill ....?" Will he realize that getting a couple of Republican votes is not bipartisanship and that 51% can pass the needed legislation?

As the President does say, the public option will tend to keep the insurance companies "honest" and more competitive. But the real value of the public option is for many to choose it. That will lower the cost of health care, just as Medicare does. As we know, Medicare has only a 2% administrative burden as opposed to over 20% for private insurers. And the power of a large public option pool, combined with Medicare, means the ability to negotiate lower charges by providers and medical equipment and pharmaceutical corporations.

Republicans and other opponents of reform charge that it is foolish to want a government option when Medicare is going broke. Well, it is going broke largely because of the funding method, not because of mismanagement or inefficiency. If you compared the Medicare cost and outcomes for any set of health conditions with the same set for private insurers, I would bet that Medicare does better.

Some Republicans also claim that a bureaucrat would come between the patient and the doctor. Untrue of course, but wouldn't it be better to have a government official who wants to help you than an insurance clerk who wants to deny the benefit?

If decent health care is a right for any citizen, isn't it most logical to have the government, or non-profit organizations, provide the access? Although the arrangement arose innocently, it is really foolish to have access to health care depend on where you work.

homer www.altara.blogspot.com

Posted by: altara on June 28, 2009 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

my hope is that the republicans continue their arrogant bullshit. it is a well-laid trap, as they continue to fight healthcare they will reveal themselves as, quite simply, evil (as Jello Jay has already cast into the public discourse).

soon it will become evident to even the most thick-headed citizen of this great nation:
the republicans really don't give a shit if your babies get sick and die...

they don't care. just show them the money...

republicans are now like a slimy scum at the surface of the body politic, in the noonday sun. and their number will continue to evaporate quickly under the heat and light.

Posted by: neill on June 28, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Did the Constitution change last night or something? Where is the requirement that all bills be "bipartisan"?

Posted by: anonymous on June 28, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK


I agree with you 100%. However, I think the GOP will continue to have a strong following with their 'Christian Values' thing. For example, you have Jehovah Witnesses that do not believe in blood transfusions. Some hardcore Catholics do not believe in abortion - regardless if the woman/child was raped, victim of incest, or the life of the mother is at risk. Then you also have to look at some of the religious sects like (just an example - not necessarily this group) Mormons.

For some of their followers, religion is more powerful than a drug.

Posted by: annjell on June 28, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Republican idea of reform is no reform at all. The dems are simply wasting time and effort trying to cater to these obstructionists so I wish they would quit worrying about what these goobers want and concern themselves with what Americans want and a good reform bill.

A bill without a public option is no reform at all.

btw...the health care reform issue is an enlightening demonstration of how corrupt and bribed our senate has become.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 28, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

If we'd listened to republicans we wouldn't have Medicare or Social Security.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 28, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

The US deficit has increased four fold since President Obama's election. Social Security and Medicaid are going bankrupt. Yet President Obama claims that he wants to prevent more "bubbles" from re occurring in the US economy. What about the doomsday deficit bubble that is occurring right now in the Federal Government that is about to set off a nuclear bomb in the US economy. If President Obama and the Dems get their way and push through cap and trade and the health care bills the deficit bubble will burst right in our face and bring about the the biggest downturn in the US economy since the Great Depression. In fact it will make the Great Depression look like a cake walk. If Obama is serious about preventing more "bubbles" going off in the US economy he will veto any bills that further increase an already unsustainable deficit and set off the biggest "bubble" explosion in US history.

Posted by: kay on June 28, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

kay - Put down the bong and step away from the vehicle.

Posted by: Officer Friendly on June 28, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

If President Obama and the Dems were to suddenly do a 180º and push through a massive deficit reduction package of spending cuts and tax increases. they'd bring about the the biggest downturn in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Just like 1937-38.

Kay could then live in a cardboard box under a bridge and toast sparrows on an old curtain rod over an open fire, using only ideological consistency to keep warm.

Which is all that matters.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 28, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

With Universal Healthcare,

Since most countries already have some kind of state-sponsored government health plan, this should be a non-issue.

The doctors here in the States make more money than any doctors in the world.

Most doctors know that if we have state-sponsored health plans, they won't make as much money as they do now.

They don't want that. The insurance companies health care business will become extinct. They don't want that.

Yes, there are private doctors in other countries, but, the majority of people will go to the free doctors first. Costa Rica, for example, have state-sponsored health insurance, Americans can go to the doctor there for $5.00, unless the amount have changed.

Because medical is cheaper in other countries, Americans flock to other countries - Brazil, India, China.....

Posted by: annjell on June 28, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

"doomsday deficit bubble"

Kay, perhaps your precious bodily fluids are being ruined as well. Say hi to General Jack. Been watching TCM recently? Now, emulate Slim Pickens and get that thar' doomsday machine a crankin'.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 28, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

My suggestion is that the vocal left should do to this legislation what Sestak is apparently doing to Spectre. And how would we accomplish that? By demanding that the oil companies be nationalized to cover the war in Iraq and health care. Is it looney? Yes, but no more so that the Republicans trying to protect the insurance industry.

If we start making equally extravagant demands, the current legislation will look like the moderate bill that it is.

Posted by: mlm on June 28, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Bipartisan health-care reform. Isn't that an oxymoron?

Posted by: Jon G on June 28, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

I have to give Obama credit for trying to be inclusive of the Republicans. Whether or not he is sincere, it's a good political ploy because he is making it difficult for them. They can't legitimately complain that they are being left out of the conversation. When they fail to participate in the process in good faith, they reveal themselves for what they are-- irrelevant whiners.

Posted by: gizmo on June 28, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Choosing the President seems like a very, very important policy decision, but we don't assume that should be 'bi-partisan', do we? And, as I recall, last time we asked, people chose the Democratic position on this.

The last time there were true moderate Republicans who could be expected to put aside partisan interests to vote for a good policy was ..., um, gee, the late 1970s? Certainly not this millenium.

(Oh, and by the way, that Kay makes me laugh. So funny!)

Posted by: biggerbox on June 28, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman: Not Enough Audacity

Enough said.

Posted by: koreyel on June 28, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

The right wing nutcase republican conditions for passage of a bipartisan health bill remind me of the current right-wing nutcase Israeli government's pre-conditions for negotiating the establishment of a Palestinian state.
I think that bipartisanship is a bullshit idea, and it's time to throw it out the window. If the republicans don't want to be part of a solution, then to hell with them. Let em sulk. I just don't give a shit about them or their feelings. Let's just get done what we asked the democrats to do.

Posted by: rbe1 on June 28, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

re: "The last time there were true moderate Republicans who could be expected to put aside partisan interests "
I remember people like Everett Dirkson and Barry Goldwater in the 60's, who considered it a matter of honor to put the country's interests above partisan politics - even when they strongly disagreed on methods for resolving problems. How far the present day republican party has fallen.

Posted by: rbe1 on June 28, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

You complained earlier about the word "superdelegate". "Bipartisan" is more offensive to me.

Posted by: qwerty on June 28, 2009 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Sure parties are 'supposed to disagree'.

But how do we recognize when they disagree too much?

What do we do when we understand there cannot be an accommodation between the two sides?

Posted by: alan on June 28, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

the parties are NOT supposed to disagree--they're supposed to attempt to agree from different positions.
The Congress is supposed to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
They have to agree on that, or there's no business dealing with them.
If we have a group of people who, when you say 'promote the general welfare, shout "Welfare! Socialism! Communism!" they're not part of any proper governmental process.
Bipartisanship is a good thing--but it takes two to tango. And the republicans pogoing by themselves in the corner doesn't count.

Posted by: pbg on June 28, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Repubs against health care reform? I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED! Who could guess?

It's the Dems I'm worried about. Getting real health care reform - universal single payer - passed will be a huge win for them. It will sink the Repubs for the next twenty years.

But the Dems look like they will not pass reform wanted by 76% of the public. If that happens AND the economy has a "jobless recovery", the Dems will be booted out the majority in Congress and out of the WH by 2012. Why? Because tens of millions of ex-middle class voters will be out of work, out of their homes, with no health care, and mad as hell.

Bottom line on this is too simple - give Medicare to everybody. You need revenue? Raise taxes on the rich, the hedge funds (close loopholes), and big business. Cut defense spending. Not enough? Polls say most everybody (including many businesses) are willing to pay more in taxes to reduce and stabilize health care costs. We're already spending money stupidly on a "stimulus" which is mostly a multi-trillion dollar bailout of the same rich people that caused this mess, why not have the government provide health care to those in need and have government stimulus spending that saves lives?

We know what the Repubs are going to do, they're trying their damnedest to make Obama fail.

The ball is in the Dem's court. What are they going to do? Compromising with the Repubs or even with the Blue Dogs will sink their chances to stay in office to lower than a snow ball in hell.

Posted by: Glen on June 28, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

GOP, STFU. Screw the Republicans. Screw bipartisanship. They have come right out and said they aren't going to support the bill. So don't even let them offer amendments. Dare them to stop it, make them try, and let them own their failure at election time.

Posted by: aatos on June 28, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

fashioning an overhaul that can attract enough Republican support to be portrayed as bipartisan

The public, including a majority of GOP voters want a public option. That's bipartisan. If the GOP congresscritters don't want to do what their constituents want, that's their problem - let them face it at the ballot box in 2010.

Posted by: CParis on June 28, 2009 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I am old enough to remember when one party could and would concede some ground if it was in the best interests of the country. While the Republicans claim the country comes first to them, their actions prove that is not the case. The Democrats should design a bill that will be in the best interests of the American people and go with it. If no Republicans vote for it, that is their problem not the Democrats. It has been shown over and over that the Repugs just refuse to go along with anything Obama offers. The stimulus bill passed with no Republican votes. So, who needs them.

Posted by: Bonnie on June 28, 2009 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK


You drive a really stupid point. I assume you are probably living in one of those LDS camps that receive thousands of dollars in foodstamps every month? Oh yes, we all saw on the news when the kids were taken in protective custody. It was mentioned that then women sew all the clothing, and the families receive thousands of taxpayer dollars in public assistance.

You are siding with people who don't and won't care about you.

Your group, the GOP, always tout family values, but it's really only their family values. It has nothing to do with the public at large.

What family values are they talking about? They don't want abortions at any cost, yet, look at Rep Cynthia Davis is Missouri, she said there should be no free lunch programs at school, hunger is a motivator and that kids should get a job.

Knight Sanford in South Carolina wanted to refuse unemployment benefits to his constituents. He was the only dissenting voter for Medicaid coverage for some breast & cervical cancer.

The Terminator, here in Cali is said to cut the welfare program to needy families, senior citizen programs.....

Do you realize that you are just a "vote" for them, nothing more.

If you don't have the money, connections, you are nothing to them.

BTW, if they find out you are talking to the "enemy," watch how fast they will make your life a living hell.

Posted by: annjell on June 28, 2009 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

BTW kay,

I am definitely assuming you are not one of the elites, because you've been here on the site.

Most of the elites from your party is out partying, shopping or traveling, or shall I say, "PORK and tea" parties.

Posted by: annjell on June 28, 2009 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Obvious and unhelpful.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on June 28, 2009 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK


Its official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.


We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.

And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.

Progressive democrats and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and request that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).

Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.

In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans dont even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!

If President Obama has to declare a NATIONAL STAT OF EMERGENCY to rescue the American people from our healthcare crisis, he will need all the sustained support you can give him. STICK WITH HIM! Hes doing a brilliant job.



Join the fight.

Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

God Bless You


Posted by: jacksmith on June 28, 2009 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

History repeats itself. If we go back to the Clinton health reform, we see that the Republicans refused to accept any part of the project or to try to mold it into something they could support. Why? Because medical care for all would have been a Democratic victory that would have relegated the Republicans to the waste can of history. This from the Republican leadership itself.

Now the same thing is happening. If the Republicans cannot prevent a viable health reform movement, then the Democrats will have a lock on government that would resemble the lock that the Republicans had after the Civil War. If they can, then once more the Democrats will be the victims of self-inflicted wounds.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on June 28, 2009 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, the parties are supposed to disagree, but when we are dealing with situations like the one linked below, my blood starts to boil and I feel like doing something nefarious to any Republican I meet.

Even those with health insurance are going broke

When Mark Moody and Glenda Krull could no longer afford both health insurance and mortgage payments, the Edmonds couple knew which had to go.

They sold their house.

This is an outrage, and anyone with a shred of humanity should rise up in anger and demand immediate health care reform. If our Congressional representatives in the House and Senate can't/won't do the right thing, recall or impeachment proceedings should begin in each state to get the bastards out of there.

Posted by: Michael W on June 28, 2009 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Michael W, @23:41:

Sometimes, I think the only solution is for people to drop their health insurance and go to die on the Capitol steps.

Posted by: exlibra on June 28, 2009 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

exlibra (11:59 PM), unfortunately, I don't think even that would work. Repugs are too used to stepping on the little guy, and Dems are too used to cowering and giving in to the Repub bullies.

Gawd, I hate politics, but in this day and age no one can afford to be ignorant on the parties and the issues.

Posted by: Michael W on June 29, 2009 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK
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