Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 25, 2010

LET'S PUT THEM SIDE BY SIDE.... Throughout the lengthy debate on health care reform, Republicans refused to negotiate in good faith. Compromises were considered out of the question. Blatantly, demonstrably false claims were the norm. Perhaps worst of all, GOP leaders would embrace specific reform ideas, and when Democrats would agree, those same GOP leaders would reject the same measures they'd already endorsed.

And yet, now that reform is hanging by a thread, congressional Republicans are arguing with a straight face that legislation can still pass -- just as soon as the Democratic majority approves the GOP reform plan.

Last week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) "made it clear that the only starting point for bipartisan compromise would be for Dems to drop their health care plan and embrace the GOP one." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) made the same offer yesterday.

John McCain took a similar line yesterday, suggesting that the only ideas that can pass in a Democratic Congress are those that come from Republicans.

Mr. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said on the CBS news program "Face the Nation" that President Obama should sit down with Republican leaders and begin adopting some of their ideas for improving the nation's health care system such as overhauling medical malpractice lawsuits, allowing residents of one state to buy health insurance from a company in another state, and granting tax credits for people who purchase health insurance on their own.

Perhaps now would be a good time to look back at the official Republican health care reform plan, as it was unveiled in November. It was largely lost in the shuffle -- and het media largely ignored it because reporters knew it had no chance of passing -- but it told us a great deal about how the GOP approaches this issue.

The Republican plan was nothing short of laughable -- it did nothing for the uninsured, nothing for those with pre-existing conditions, and nothing for those worried about losing coverage when it's needed most. It was an entirely partisan plan, written in secret. The Republican proposal sought to create a system that "works better for people who don't need health care services, and much worse for people who actually are sick or who become sick in the future. It's basically a health un-insurance policy." And as we learned in November, the plan included provisions that "mirror the suggestions put forth by the lobbying entity of the private insurance industry way back in December 2008."

Indeed, the official Republican plan didn't even offer modest provisions that the party used to support. Roll Call reported at the time, "Under the GOP plan, insurance companies would still be allowed to exclude anyone with a pre-existing medical condition from coverage, there would be no national insurance exchange and businesses would not face any mandate to provide insurance nor individuals to buy it. Boehner also left out tax credits to help the poor and middle class buy insurance -- a central pillar of most GOP reform proposals and a key feature of a four-page outline Republican leaders released in June."

The plan was quickly labeled "a major embarrassment."

Now, Cantor, McCain, and McConnell are labeling their approach "the bipartisan solution."

Ideally, the public could see the two plans, side by side, and see for themselves which party offered the more sensible solution.

It often goes unsaid, but if you were to have assembled a bipartisan group of policy wonks a couple of years ago, and asked them to put together a comprehensive plan that incorporates ideas from both parties, that expands coverage and cuts costs, they would have crafted a plan that looks an awful lot like the current Senate bill.

It's not the majority's fault that Republicans have lost their minds.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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yet, there are millions of conservatives who believe the Republican "plan" is a "plan" and the Senate bill is "socialism." The power of corporate press in full flower.

Did any of the dolts intereviewing Cantor, McConnell, and McCain call them on the deficiencies of their "plan?" I bet not.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 25, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's not the majority's fault that Republicans have lost their minds.

Yes, but it's the majority's fault if to refuse to acknowledge that the Republicans have lost their minds and refuse, in the name of "bipartisanship" or something, to point it out to the public.

It's as if the Democrats want to be abused by the Republicans and they think they somehow deserve it.

Posted by: SteveT on January 25, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

"It's not the majority's fault that Republicans have lost their minds."

No, but it is the majority party's fault that for all of 2009 the White House, Baucus, etc. continued to treat these lunatics as rational players, made major concessions to them, adopted a number of their certifiably crazy ideas, and now act astonished when they realize people have lost faith in their judgment, discernment, and ability to govern intelligently and effectively.

Posted by: JohnB, on January 25, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

have grayson give classes to other democratic congresspeople on how to make headlines..

while making a point..

perhaps they could come up something pithy like..

..."the only thing the republicans would provide in their health care plan....is the hearse.."

Posted by: mr. irony on January 25, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

"It's as if the Democrats want to be abused by the Republicans and they think they somehow deserve it."

Couldn't have said it better myself, SteveT.

Posted by: azportsider on January 25, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Look, half of this is dead on: Republicans having to come forward and actually define a health policy would be good strategically, because they don't have one, and it would force them to "put up or shut up" on making a workable deal. In other words, force them to be serious, and if they can't... well, there you have it.

Still, the other half is about what Dems really want, and I think that's more problematic. Tort reform has always stood as a fairly minor, insignificant (if written well) element of reform, and probably could have been used to buy off one or two GOP types. And you can make a fairly common sense argument about needing to address malpractice issues and insurance concerns, especially for OB/GYNs. That Dems resist this is really about lobbying on our side, from trial lawyers.

Finally, I'm also persuaded by another suggestion of why the House is balking at finding some sort of compromise the GOP would accept: a healthcare deal that passes with Republican assistance is something Republicans can sell in the fall as "when they listened to us, then it worked." I am persuaded that Pelosi and the leadership would rather blame a failure on Republicans and take their chances on other issues, rather than give the GOP an inch. That's the partisan problem, I think... when we decide we absolutely can't find common ground, it does force choices that limit our options. And I think that's what it's going to come down to - you could have healthcare reform... by giving some things to the GOP. Is that what you wanted?

Posted by: weboy on January 25, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the right thing to do here is recognize that "Bi-partisan" doesn't have to mean "Reaching out to both Republican and Democratic legislators" and could just mean "Reaching out to both Republican Americans and Democratic Americans."

And to that end, I'm inclined to wonder if the best approach might not be to forget about trying to get anything through Congress, and to focus on a constitutional amendment to bring us single payer instead.

Such a change might be radical, but given the opposition I hear from many Republicans is based upon their belief (rightly or wrongly, I don't think they've heard of that whole Interstate Commerce thing) that Federally regulated healthcare is unconstitutional, rather than any concern it might not work, it'd be easier to get a bipartisan consensus amongst Americans to support such an idea than it would be amongst Legislators to get a law passed.

It would also be a hell of a lot easier to get Single Payer in there, which is by far the most popular form of HCR but the one that, due to ideological insanity, never gets considered within the beltway.

For those supporting the current bills, it might also be a good idea to talk up the notion of a constitutional amendment anyway. It might undermine the corruption in the Senate a little if those paying Lieberman et al to stop anything decent from passing have to consider the possibility that a failure will result in their entire industries being rendered unconstitutional.

Posted by: squiggleslash on January 25, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP reminds me of the Monty Python knight, limbs severed and bleeding profusely, still maintains that he has the upper hand.

I suppose they subscribe to the idea of 'perception is reality'. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 25, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

weboy, regarding tort reform -- how does what we have, compare to other countries with cheaper better healthy care? I honestly have no idea, I've wondered, but it doesn't seem to get published. I am a big fan of stealing what works. If the rest of the world has reformed torts, maybe we should too. If not, then let's go slow on that -- for some definitions of tort reform, traded for some other stuff, it might be worthwhile.

I recall that England is/was "loser pays lawyers" -- is that still the case? Is that common elsewhere?

But for now, pass the damn bill, and see what the R's will offer for tort reform. I don't particularly care to give the R senators another swipe at the main bill.

Posted by: dr2chase on January 25, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP plan, if you look closely, was photocopied from 1994's Contract with America. Seriously GOP, the adults are talking.

Posted by: johnnymags on January 25, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

It was a marvelous experience being a part of this knowledge giving post....Wish to read more such kind of post in the near future.
Mio Navman M450D

Posted by: ScarlettJacob on January 25, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

"weboy, regarding tort reform -- how does what we have, compare to other countries with cheaper better healthy care? I honestly have no idea, I've wondered, but it doesn't seem to get published. I am a big fan of stealing what works. If the rest of the world has reformed torts, maybe we should too. If not, then let's go slow on that -- for some definitions of tort reform, traded for some other stuff, it might be worthwhile." - dr2chase

We don't need to study other countries because we have states that have 'reformed' tort law. And in those states (Texas for instance) the premiums may have gone down but the 'defensive medicine' hasn't because doctors get paid by the procedure and test so they have a preverse incentive to do procedures and tests even if they aren't in danger of being sued for malpractice.

The CBO has scored tort reform. It represents about 0.2% of the health care costs in this country. When you consider that we spend twice as much per person that Japan does and we go to the doctor about half as often and live shorter lives, you have to conclude there are bigger problems then tort reform.

Posted by: Lance on January 25, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

I absolutely agree, Lance, there are bigger issues than tort reform, and ones that matter more to actually improving healthcare; but the question remains... if you could get a few Republican votes with a tort reform sop... would you? If that meant getting 60 or 70% of the other things you want? This is what compromise means. And it's foolish - and shortsighted - to insist that Republican "compromise" means taking what Dems put together without question. That's just caving, and we ouldn't do it when they ran things. I think these partisan times make it easy to cast the "other side" as always at fault; the fact is, no one wants to find common ground all that much. We could add "tort reform" to the bill and maybe get a few GOP votes. At least, showing some willingness to be flexible on it makes Dems look more accomodating than Republicans. And that, I think, is something many voters would like to see.

Posted by: weboy on January 25, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Yes Steve, but the problem is that it doesn't matter that the republicans have lost their minds. In today's Washington, the only thing which matters is how they vote, and this has nothing to do with fair or unfair, with the result that the Senate cannot function under its current rules for any majority with less than sixty votes, period.

Posted by: rbe1 on January 25, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

The low information voter is for "bipartisan" because they have no idea how disengaged from reality the current GOP has become. To many older voters the GOP is Dole and Baker, not McConnell and Inhofe.

The comparison needs to be a compact table of the Senate plan, the positions of the GOP in 1990's and the 2010 GOP "plan".

Posted by: OKDem on January 25, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

OK, where are the ads comparing the two plans?

Posted by: Barbara on January 25, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The Senate Bill is basically a national version of the Massachusetts plan, which was signed into law by Mitt Romney.

I haven't checked recently. What party is Romney in?

Posted by: Mike from Detroit on January 25, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

> weboy - if you could get a few Republican votes with a tort reform sop

You wouldn't though. All that happens is that you add it to the bill, and they vote against it anyway. Haven't you been paying attention?

What are you willing to concede? Womens reproductive rights? Church state separation? Disbanding social security? Death sentences for homosexuality? The republican's don't even vote with the dems when they cut taxes, and that's the repubs main plank.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on January 25, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans haven't lost their minds. I think your confusion comes from your assumption that they actually give a damn about governing, and are trying to propose a policy that would actually work. They aren't.

This proposal does just what it was supposed to do, that is, it has just enough political-sounding words for them to pretend they've made a 'plan', which gives them all the rhetorical cover they need to tear down the Democrats. Sure, we know their plan is not worthy of the name, but we pay attention to detail and really care. Most people don't.

It's so much better, if you want to slam Obama for not listening to you, to propose a pile of shiny nonsense that guarantees that he won't listen to you. Plus, if you can hound him into adopting some of your stupid ideas because he's so absolutely desperate to be bipartisan, it's a bonus.

They haven't lost their minds. They're just venal politicians. (Well, except McCain. I think he really has lost his mind.)

Posted by: biggerbox on January 25, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

McConnell missed his calling. If he can say something like that with a straight face, he would have been a fine actor.

Cantor's young enough to still make a career of it if he wants to.

Posted by: sacman701 on January 25, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Great! McCain says that the only thing which will pass is an idea that comes from Republicans. This means that the FairTax (HR25) should be top priority. Double the tax rate of it, and it becomes the Democratic Relocalization and Environmental Act of the century. Take their idea and RUN with it!

Posted by: Dan Conine on January 25, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

What's needed is a chart something like this one, which compares the McCain '08 and Obama '08 plans:


McCain's plan comes off looking badly, and it is a hell of a lot better than what Republicans are offering now.

Of course, the Obama '08 plan looked a lot better than what Dems are offering now, too. It sounds like Obama is giving up on banning discrimination against adults with pre-existing conditions, just as he abandoned drug reimportation...thus jetisoning the two main (and most popular) provisions of the health plan his transition team promoted.

Anyway, in terms of political responses to GOP obstructionism, it's astounding that Dems have failed to hammer home the point that Republicans did nothing to address the health care crisis during their years of power. George Bush admitted there was a health care crisis in both his 2003 and 2007 State of the Union addresses. He even advanced some proposals for reform (lousy though they were). Yet neither he nor the GOP did anything seriously to try to implement any reforms or even get a national debate going. It was the mere pretense of interest in the issue, nothing more.

Posted by: smintheus on January 25, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

What Cantor, McCain and McConnell are endorsing is indeed a bipartisan plan. However, the two parties involved are the Republican Party and the Teabag Party.

Posted by: josef on January 25, 2010 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Democrats for your loss, or should I say losses. Virginia, NJ and now liberal Massachusetts. If you want to keep blaming the GOP or the 'tea baggers', please do so. The voters will respond in November as they have in the recent 3 elections noted above.
How did Scott Brown do it? See http://bit.ly/64qwGg

Posted by: Michael Kirsch, M.D. on January 26, 2010 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK



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