Health Care Reform: Abort, Retry, Fail?

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December 15, 2009 by D Stack

There’s been some discussion in liberal circles as to whether it is time to pull the plug on the health care reform debate going on in the Senate. For example, in an interview with Bob Kinzel, Howard Dean said:

This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.

Others such as Paul Krugman have suggested it is best to take what is achievable.

Paul Starr — a veteran of the Clinton attempt — says that we should just pass the thing and try to fix it later. I guess I grudgingly agree — unless Lieberman demands further changes, gutting the bill. And I have a sick feeling that he’ll do just that.

I suspect Krugman is probably closer to what is needed than Dean. If the Democrats try to restart this, is there any likelihood of better success? And do they really have the courage to stand up to Lieberman and the Republicans  to pursue reconciliation, a process which would allow them to bypass the filibuster. (When they were a minority Democrats spoke out against the use of reconciliation while Republicans supported it. Now the opposite is true…) Right now we are at the point where the Democratic Senate leadership has caved into every demand that Lieberman has made — even when those demands are changes from his positions of three months ago. I worry that by the time Lieberman is done dictating health care reform we will be left with a worse system than we have today — which would be a rather impressive feat.

So I think it is time for the Senate Democrats to decide what they want. Watered down reform may be better than none at all if it can be achieved. But the leadership needs to decide what they’ll fight for and how they’ll fight for it. Otherwise they may as well give Senator Lieberman the position of Senate Majority Leader.

It has been over 15 years since President Clinton tried for health care reform that would provide for universal coverage. Previous to that, the closest this country came was under President Nixon. So the Democrats would be well-advised to get something. Waiting till 2025 does not seem a reasonable option.

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