President Obama and House Speaker Pelosi did a masterful job bringing the health care reform bill to fruition. A couple months ago after Scott Brown’s election here in Massachusetts it sure didn’t look likely a smiling Obama would be signing the measure today. And yet here we are. But it wouldn’t have been possible without help from the Republican party.
What am I talking about, you ask?
By and large the American people want to see bipartisanship. The Democrats bent over backwards to include Republicans in drafting the health reform bill. Sen. Max Baucus in particular worked hard to bring along Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe. As Noam Schreiber points out in The New Republic:
“In retrospect, it appears that Baucus’s Republican interlocutors… either were never really serious about cutting a deal or, more likely, came under so much pressure from their GOP colleagues that they couldn’t cut one even if they wanted to.”
And House Republicans were like sheep: not a single one was prepared to vote for reform.
Republicans have tried hard to make it look like they are the ones being done down, with continuous exhortations to “start over” and “work with us.” With hypocritical statements like this, it became fairly straightforward for Obama to orchestrate the so-called “bipartisan health care summit.” At that meeting it became clear to the average American that Obama was trying harder at bipartisanship than the Republicans. The icing on the cake was when Obama signaled his willingness to adopt some Republican suggestions coming out of the summit.
My biggest chuckles have been with Republicans complaining about Democrats using unfair processes and not accepting the will of the people. I might have taken that notion seriously 15 years ago but after two George W. Bush terms the Republicans have absolutely zero credibility in this regard. An even bigger laugher was the attempt to cast aspersions on the bill with references to its length.
At the end of the day, the American public as a whole is likely to conclude that the Democrats played fair and thought for themselves. After all, unlike Republicans, not all Democrats voted in lockstep.
I also think that Americans may look negatively at some of the recent behavior displayed by Republican members of the House, including Rep. Randy Neugebauer calling anti-abortion Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak a “baby killer,” and Republican Congressman cheering protesters in the gallery who broke the rules by shouting “Kill the bill.” All of this follows on Rep Joe Wilson’s heckling of the President with his famous, “You lie.”
Count me among those who would like to see bipartisanship. In particular I wish Congress could have worked together to craft a bill that did more to promote inter-generational equity. It was galling to me to see Republicans denouncing potential cuts to Medicare in order to score points with seniors by scaring them about health care reform. It’s totally unprincipled. And I’m upset that there is some closing of the doughnut hole for Medicare prescription drug benefits in this bill. If anything the hole should be widened or the doughnut (i.e., Medicare Part D) be taken away completely.
Don’t be shocked when in a few years –once the excitement of the current moment passes and attempts at repeal fade away– to see Republicans defending Federal health care spending that’s part of the current bill.
You don’t really expect Republicans to run on a platform of restoring the ability of health insurers to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, do you?