The consequences

President Obama left his signature domestic policy in the hands of Congress, and now he is facing the consequences.  From the outset of his presidency, Obama invited Congress to devise the details of health care reform legislation — an apparent bid to avoid what happened when President Clinton tried to overhaul health care 17 years ago.

Leaving it to Congress put an unusually glaring spotlight on how Capitol Hill does business. The spectacle of Congress’ horse-trading, secrecy and gridlock has fueled today’s virulent anti-Washington mood. The public’s reaction was all the greater because Obama had campaigned on a promise to change the way Washington did business, and because health care reform engendered such personal high hopes and anxiety.

The way voters saw it, the smoke-filled room was back — and they did not like it.  “The forces unleashed by the financial collapse created in the minds of people the sense that there are demonic forces at work in banking, real estate and, not surprisingly, in Congress as well,” said Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who is an expert on Congress.

Democrats also suffered black eyes from special legislative provisions written into the bills to win support from particular lawmakers — especially Medicaid funding-breaks sought by Sens. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a measure dubbed the “Louisiana Purchase” and “Cornhusker Kickback.”

Because of YouTube and Facebook, TV on your cellphone, we know these deals are happening. We assumed they happened 20 years ago, but we know it today.   Such practices are easily exploited by GOP critics at a time of economic hardship and mistrust of large institutions.

That’s one reason Obama has called a health care summit this week — to try to renew the debate on more pristine terms. Even if nothing comes of the talks, they are designed to spotlight on national television precisely the bipartisan, high-minded debate that Congress’ year-long process was not.

Obama himself helped bring on the backlash.  The result is an anti-Washington mood the Republicans have tapped into.  Will the health care summit facilitate the two main parties meeting someplace in the middle?  Is it possible to make it back to the old “hand-across-the-aisle” way of getting work done?  Or are we destined to continue a period of political uncertainty, partisanship and trading of Capitol Hill control.


Filed under Diplomacy, Healthcare

5 responses to “The consequences

  1. fnord

    “The Republican plan has a catchy name—the Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act—and its authors proudly say that they got the job done in a mere 219 pages of Washington-speak; the House Democratic version weighs in at 1,990 pages. The GOP bill would prevent insurers from dropping people from their rolls if they got sick; ensure that people with preexisting conditions can get insurance; and require insurance companies to let children stay on their parents’ plans until they reach their mid-20s.

    Nothing new there. All those provisions are part of the Democratic bills. But that’s where the similarities end. The two parties have different goals in reforming health care. Democrats believe that more government regulation of the health-insurance industry is needed to make sure just about everyone can get coverage while at the same time controlling rising costs. Republicans want the opposite: to free health-insurance companies from regulation and allow market forces to bring down costs and provide affordable insurance options.”

  2. fnord

    The little cartoon in this thread header says it for me — once Universal Health Care was left behind, there aren’t going to be solutions. The most that can be hoped for are tiny tweaks that might do more good than harm.

    We’ve all heard the rumors that a public option will be part of a bill that will be forced through under budget reconciliation. I won’t hold my breath, and can’t allow myself to get my hopes up again. The democrats in Congress are too comfortable in the beds the corporate masters made for them to actually do anything for American people. The republicans in Congress never pretended they intended to do anything for American people.

  3. fnord

    Remember the old days? Are they gone? For just a while or forever? Do elections have little to no meaning nowadays? Is the minority party in the best and strongest position? I still think the 2006 and 2008 elections were a mandate to give us solutions to our health-care problems.

    • Did you hear what Former Governor of NY Eliot Spitzer said on Bill Maher’s show Friday? I thought that summed it up nicely: (Sorry this is the only url I can find for the video)

      To sum up, Spitzer basically says Obama was sent to Washington to represent a group of values and he needs to grow some cajones and DO IT.

      And the audience cheers…

      • fnord

        Standing ovation!! Thanks for sharing that, Paula.

        Two corporate wings of the same party…

        …all the Republicans need to do is say, “I’m gonna filibuster this.” And, then the democrats back down. Intent to filibuster — neat and simple.

        Democrats need to say, “Look, they scammed America, and now we’re going to stand up for America!”

        Republicans aren’t going to vote for your proposals so you might as well string em up!

        They each had some great things to say. Anyone listening?