Healthcare Reform and the Cableized Blogosphere

by Brien Jackson

Dear God, is August over yet? Sign me up with everything Booman says. Listen to him. Please. This nonsense is just too much.

I really, really, don’t understand Netroots bloggers at this point. The healthcare posturing has had them turning every which way pretty much everyday, based on who was saying what at which point. Now we’ve got them chastising Obama, who’s on record supporting a public option, “selling out” over the public option because some “anonymous aides” said they’d be ok if they got a bill which didn’t include one. And apparently the President can now pass bills without a majority of Senators signing on. Who knew?

Ultimately though, I think what you’re seeing here is the cableization (yeah, I think I just made that up) of the blogosphere, where the need for new angles and new content on a pretty much constant basis necessitates these sort of freak outs everytime there’s a new statement or a new act to the ongoing theater of passing a major reform bill. I don’t know about you, but where I come from people in politics don’t always mean what they say. And sometimes they say stuff that doesn’t really mean anything. And I think there’s been an awful lot of that over the summer on healthcare reform, as relevant players have sort of been riding out the legislative process, which still moves at a much slower pace than the sturn un drag of the cable/blog world. So at this point, the blogosphere probably isn’t a much better source of analysis of this sort of stuff than cable. With the eception of Ezra Klein. Read him. Ignore pretty much everything else.

As for healthcare reform itself, I think we’re pretty much where we were always going to be. Reconcilliation isn’t available until October 15th, so Finance is dragging its feet a bit, but other than that, everyone else is more or less ready to go. HELP has reported out a bill, the House could move on something whenever they wanted to, and we’re basically playing out what can get through the Senate. The Senate will move whatever they can easily to get the bill to conference, where the real fight will be. That’s when the White House will start leveraging its position, when the real lobbying will kick in, when the Senate will demand concessions (because that’s what the Senate does), etc. And, ultimately, we’re going to pass the best bill that can get through the Senate. Does that include a public option? I really don’t know. It’s easy enough to blame Obama for this or faulty messaging for that or whatever, but at the end of the day I really don’t know that there are 50 votes there for the public option in the Senate. Nelson, Landrieu, Carper, and Lieberman can all reasonably said to be publicly opposed to it, with leaves you with 55 potential votes (56 if Massachusetts appoints a temporary replacement for Kennedy), and that’s a group that includes Blance Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Evan Bayh, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, Max Baucus, and Jon Tester. That’s certainly not the sort of math that indicates a clear majority of support in the chamber. Will the progressive caucus block a bill in the House without a public option? I don’t think so, at least not if it’s clear that the bill we get is obviously the most politically viable reform on the table, for a couple of reasons. First of all, most of the caucus members are experienced legislatures who aren’t likely to walk away fro progress they think is honestly and truly the most that can be accomplished at the moment. There’s a lot of rhetoric about not compromising on the public option because it is, itself, a “compromise from single payer,” but that just strikes me as dumb. The only reason single-payer is off the table is because it’s pretty clear it’s just not politically viable at the moment. And while I think you certainly want to start negotiations from a maximalist standpoint, I also think that still needs to be a point that is within the realm of the realistic. Johnny Damon might be having a great year and the Yankees may really want to bring him back next season, but if he walks in asking for a $25 million salary next year I think the Yankees are more likely to just walk away from the table right then than they are to significantly increase what they’re willing to pay him. This is also why opposition parties don’t usually begin their opposition to popular proposals by just announcing off the bat that they won’t support anything, because then you’ll get marginalized. It’s one thing if you have popular opinion on your side (see Nancy Pelosi and Social Security privatization), but it’s another if most people agree something has to be done.

In any event, I think we’re still on track to get a reform bill passed that will greatly expand access to healthcare, and I think there’s a very good chance that it could be universal, which is more than we’ve ever gotten before. Anything that achieves that goal should be perfectly fine with anyone who claims to care about the uninsured. Will it have more than that? It’s hard to say, but I’m fairly confident the Democratic leadership will pass the most robust bill they can. And yes, that will be better than nothing. Anyone who tells you otherwise probably has a perfectly fine insurance policy.