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Tilting at Windmills

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September 23, 2009

THE GOP REVERSAL ON INDIVIDUAL MANDATES.... In many cases, Republican lawmakers asked Democratic leaders to make specific concessions on health care reform. When Dems like Max Baucus agreed, the GOP balked anyway.

But there are other areas in which Democrats simply embrace policy ideas endorsed, or even created by, the right. For quite a while, conservatives liked the idea of giving an Independent Medicare Advisory Council more power to determine what the program should pay for. It's a straightforward, money-saving measure. When the Obama administration agreed, Republicans decided they didn't like their own idea anymore.

The same thing is happening with an individual mandate, which Republicans trashed during the first day of Senate Finance Committee debate yesterday.

Advocates of a coverage mandate say it is needed to ensure that young, healthy people get insurance and contribute to the system. They say this will ease costs associated with an influx of less-healthy people who are expected to get coverage under the Baucus legislation.

Republicans, who are trying to slow Democratic efforts to pass a health overhaul by the end of the year, rushed to criticize the proposal.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Finance Committee's senior Republican, said the mandate is among the reasons that he couldn't support the bill despite months of negotiations with Mr. Baucus. "Individuals should maintain their freedom to chose health-care coverage, or not," he said.

"This bill is a stunning assault on liberty," said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's second-ranking Republican.

That's pretty strong rhetoric under any circumstances, but it's especially striking since the GOP used to think individual mandates were fine. Indeed, Sam Stein noted yesterday that the idea was "once considered so non-controversial that it was endorsed by several major Republican officials."

As recently as a month ago, Chuck Grassley, the same senator bashing the idea of a mandate yesterday, announced that the way to get universal coverage is "through an individual mandate." He told Nightly Business report, "That's individual responsibility, and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility." Earlier this year, Grassley told Fox News that there wasn't "anything wrong" with mandates even if some may view them "as an infringement upon individual freedom."

Now, apparently, he disagrees with himself. There's a lot of that going around.

Congressional Republicans could probably save themselves a lot of trouble by simply saying, "Whatever Democrats are for, we're against," in response to every question.

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (109)

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Comments

Oh what an awful web they've weaved!

Cantor is now for giving Americans options? These Republican leaders seem to be for it before they were against it, or against it before they were for it? Their pretend narrative may end up proclaiming their party brought Americans true health care reform while saving the nation at the same time!

Minds like Boehner's and McConnell's gotta go! Too many non-good, non-new ideas emanating from hollow chambers! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 23, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Whatever Democrats are for, we're against." That's a Republican for you.

If Obama would just believe this, what with it being true and all, he might be able to govern effectively.

Posted by: sb on September 23, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Quincy Adams Wagstaff is their patron saint.

Posted by: freelunch on September 23, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Are the Republicans hypocritical for withdrawing their support for mandates? or are the Democrats just plain stupid for supporting mandates without a public option, and expecting the Republicans to go along with the policy?

Sorry, it is the Democrats that are in the wrong here. Mandates only work if there is a very, very strong public option and the price of insurance is falling.

The Democrats have handed the insurance industry everything it wants: continuing high rates, no competition, and a huge group of new customers who are forced to buy their stinking, expensive, ineffective products.

And the Republicans are in the wrong? Give me a break.

I hate mandates unless you give us either a single payer system, or at the least, a very strong public option -- one that will probably lead to a single payer system down the road.

Either fix the bill, or kill it -- but don't call the Republicans hypocritical just because they are winning the political war. It sounds like jealousy to me.

Posted by: Joesbrain on September 23, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

The folks who really love the individual mandate are the health insurance companies. Frankly, it's a terrible idea UNLESS a true public option is part of the health insurance reform package. Otherwise, it's just more profit for the corporations. "Subsidized health care" for those who can't afford to pay for the full price for mandated health care is also a great source of revenue for the industry. More federal tax dollars.

Posted by: winddancer on September 23, 2009 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

There is nothing surprising about this. It's the same 180 the GOP played on what had been a consensus idea: the notion that medicare should provide benefits for end of life counseling. Senator Jonny Issakson (R-GA), who once advocated the concept, has distanced himself from the withering backlash resulting from Sarah Palin's absurd claim that these measures amount to "death panels".

There is no intellectual consistency to the GOP's opposition. The GOP is even playing into populist angst by positioning themselves as the Grand Protector's of Medicare, a program they once sought to abolish, even as they condemn Obama's supposed push for a government take over of the health care industry.

Up is Down in the GOP universe, and as a previous commenter said, "whatever the democrats are for, where against"--a simple summary of the governing philosophy of the republican party.

Posted by: ChrisNBama on September 23, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't see that coming.

Posted by: Mr. Dependable on September 23, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Joesbrain and WInddancer are spot on.

Without a very affordable plan to buy into, the mandate is a GIANT political loser.

The pigs, although completely hypocritical in their reversal, are smart enough to see the writing on the wall.

Posted by: Grouch Potato on September 23, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

There is a public option. Senate Finance isn't the be-all-end-all.

Senate Finance is going to have some kind of public option, then Reid can either pick the PO designed by Olympia Snowe OR the one designed by Teddy Fucking Kennedy.

Posted by: Miles on September 23, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Our Stupid Discourse:

A "mandate" is a *tax* levied on people who don't want to be responsible for their own health care costs, and who may be too poor to do so within the context of the current system. A "mandate" is preferable to those individuals and parties who want to see the same for profit system continue, with the same lousy coverage, and who use an incoherent notion of "risk pooling" to defend dragooning poor individuals into an insurance system that is not set up to take care of their actual health needs.

If the Democrats would once stand up for *taxing everyone* for health care for all, not health insurance but health care, they wouldn't find themselves constantly snookered by these hysterical accusations and this cross and jostle work from the Republicans. The health of my neighbor is as important to me, as a human being and as a taxpayer, as the security of his house and property. We should each of us--he for me and I for him--be paying a *tax* to make sure that he and I are both covered for health care costs just as he and I both pay for Fire and Police Services. Its the humane thing to do, its the fiscally responsible thing to do, its the sensible tax payer's approach. No free loaders. No raging forest fires. Everyone needs health care to be a healthy, working, tax paying citizen.

Mandates are a lousy idea because they appear to fall hardest, and do fall hardest, on the people who can least afford it. In addition, they are requiring people to pay money to a third party entity *not* the government that has no fiduciary or moral duty to return value for service. But the Republicans proposed Mandates for all those lousy reasons, and they now reject them simply because they hope to kill health care reform entirely. They get no credit for urging good policy for bad reasons, just as they get no credit for urging bad policy for bad reasons.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on September 23, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

As I've said, Obama needs to propose a tax cut for the richest 1% of Americans, and then we can watch as the GOP denounces it as socialism.

Posted by: Speed on September 23, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

They may be crazy, they may be hypocrites, but they've also WON!

HCR is dead.

Posted by: howie on September 23, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

"Whatever Democrats are for, we're against."

"And whatever they're against, we're for - until they're for it, then we'll automatically be against it."

Fixed.

Posted by: Marko on September 23, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Well, we have tons of individual mandates: all young men must register for Selective Service, we all must contribute to SocSec and Medicare, and so forth and so on. What the hell are these people talking about?

Posted by: Carol on September 23, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Here we go with Lucy and her football AGAIN. Charlie is a nice enough chap, but at some point you want to strangle him for his naïveté. I'm with Joesbrain @ 9:36. Damn it Donkeys, GET A CLUE!

Posted by: Chopin on September 23, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, Tim Russert, if ever there was a time we needed you, it is now. This kind of thing would have been a field day for him.

Posted by: John on September 23, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Joesbrain is right, and it appears that the Democrats are proceeding in the worst of all possible directions, substantively and politically: including an individual mandate, but without a viable public option. That will compel, under penalty of law, everyone to buy expensive and crappy insurance from existing providers. Such people will, quite properly, hate this system. Talk about a political gift tothe GOP. No public option, no mandate.

Posted by: CDT on September 23, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a lifelong Democrat, as liberal/lefty as they come, and I have always been horrifically appalled by the notion of a mandate to purchase health insurance. So many things are wrong with this idea, I can't believe anyone -- least of all the Democratic Party -- is pushing it.

Never thought I'd say this, but THANK GOD FOR THE REPUBLICANS. There should be no mandate to purchase insurance, private or otherwise.

Posted by: JHF on September 23, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

The "mandate is a tax" meme is not necessarily a good one for the Republicans. All it takes is the Democrats to agree, and note that the tax is regressive, and that's the wrong kind of tax, isn't it? So why not raise the progressive (income) taxes instead? Seems like a beter idea to me.

Posted by: dr2chase on September 23, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

"thank god for the republicans?" Please, the whole mandates/not mandates thing is just a blip on the road to destroying any form of health care reform, period. I blame the tendency of the bloggosphere to talk about the horserace instead of the goal. The Republicans will disagree with everything the Democrats propose just because. I doubt if any of them could actually tell you why Mandates are bad or even thinks that they are. Mandates, after all, apply to *other people* and Republicans are on record as not giving a flying fuck about other people. This is no more a real reflection of Republican intentions than their new found love of Medicare and Social Security. When the Democrats rallied to protect Social Security against privatization that was at least an authentic and well thought out defense of a signature issue and an important program. The Republicans can not be trusted to follow through on protecting the individual against mandates since they have no interest in protecting the individual voter against predatory insurance policies in the first place.

This incident in negotiations will be forgotten in five seconds. We need to be pressuring the Democrats to grasp that they simply can't try to reach a half way point with people who are out to de stroy them.

*There's no meeting place between the assassin and the target that doesn't end in disaster for the target.* No matter how nice the assassin appears to be or what he is offering to get you to the meeting.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on September 23, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

*There's no meeting place between the assassin and the target that doesn't end in disaster for the target.*

I'm definitely stealing that'n.

Posted by: bartcopfan on September 23, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Whatever Democrats are for, we're against...

and I'm prepared to change my view, despite my previous position, just to make it so. Even if I look like a hypocrite."

Posted by: Hannah on September 23, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

aimai, you're on a roll today. Good stuff.

Single payer is the way to go. Care for all. It's even... gulp... Christian. The Rs should be rallying behind it. yaright. They don't give a rat's behind about regular folks.

Posted by: Hannah on September 23, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

"This bill is a stunning assault on liberty," said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's second-ranking Republican.

That's pretty strong rhetoric under any circumstances...

Yeah, especially when you consider that the GOP thinks it's ok for the Federal Government to wiretap your phone, snoop in your computer, and spy on you in bed without a warrant, and legeslate who you fall in love with and marry

Posted by: bcinaz on September 23, 2009 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hypocritical or not, if the Repubs can maneuver the Dems into passing a bill with a mandate and no public option, while they stay on record as opposing the bill, it will be the worst possible outcome for the Dems and the best for the Repubs.

Posted by: sceptic on September 23, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

You're doing it wrong.

The new Republican opposition to individual mandates should be couched in terms of the Republicans wanting to help deadbeats and freeloaders leech off the rest of us by getting emergency care they didn't pay for.

You know, like they themselves would do when talking about school lunch programs.

Posted by: Jennifer on September 23, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody remember the Groucho Marx song from "Horsefeathers" called "I'm Against It." The chorus is "Whatever it is, I'm against it."

You can watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7cry-4pyy8, complete with Portugese subtitles.

Posted by: gmoke on September 23, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK
Never thought I'd say this, but THANK GOD FOR THE REPUBLICANS. There should be no mandate to purchase insurance, private or otherwise.

And your proposal as to what to do when such an uninsured individual becomes injured? Absent a single-payer solution, individual mandates are necessary, just as they are for automobile insurance.

Posted by: PaulB on September 23, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmmm, it smells like concern troll around here...

Posted by: miguelito on September 23, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of the set of pieces we want in the final reform package there should be some thought given to how the final product would work. That might help us catch any problems at this early point. Simply explaining to someone how mandates would work could cause us to pause. And then of course there is the political aspect of the issue and whether Dems think this particular thing is sooo important than they would risk losing the House and all the potential legislation they have on their agenda.

If Dems agree with the Repubs on this they should simply agree to concede to this concession at the request of the Repubs and do it. If they continue with the mandates, then they should be able to explain how it would work to avoid the 'tax' argument and they could put John Kerry out there to talk about Republican flip-flopping. Should be a hoot.

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