Inside the Corrupt Process

It looks like it won’t only be the Republicans who take “Obamacare” apart piece by piece. This article in the Washington Monthly gives us a glimpse behind the curtain of bipartisan corruption — and spells out why making “deals” with industry is no deal at all:

As it happened, the Republicans had been gunning for IPAB for quite some time. Legislation to kill the independent panel was put forward as early as July 2010 in the Senate, and this January, Tennessee Tea Partier Phil Roe introduced a bill to repeal it in the newly Republican House. Now, by emphasizing its importance, Obama had put IPAB back at the front of the conservative firing line.

The fallout had all the markings of a straightforward partisan battle—a reflexive attack on faceless bureaucrats tailor-made for the Tea Party era. But then, just two days after Obama’s speech at George Washington, a little-known Democratic congresswoman named Allyson Schwartz signed on as a cosponsor of Roe’s bill. Her defection was enough of a partisan hiccup to earn some prominent ink in the Beltway press. An article that landed on the cover of the New York Times in mid-April suggested that conscientious opposition to IPAB was becoming an issue that crossed the political aisle.

What Schwartz’s defection really represented, however, was not the MacGuffin of earnest bipartisanship but a serious moment of escalation in a war that the medical industry is waging against the lynchpin of President Obama’s health care reforms. To understand why, it helps to know a little bit about Schwartz and who she represents. A former health care executive from a suburban district outside Philadelphia, she is the health policy brains of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of forty-two House members whose close relationship with several hundred Washington lobbyists has made them one of the most successful political money machines since the Republican K Street Project collapsed in 2007. In the past several years, they have played an instrumental role in helping the financial and health care industries limit and weaken proposed reforms; IPAB would appear to be their next target. And if the history of the group is any indication, where Schwartz goes, the votes of a substantial number of her New Democrat colleagues are liable to follow.

And guess who the DCCC has tapped to help with candidate recruitment?

Pennsylvania Rep. Allyson Schwartz is taking on an expanded leadership role at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Schwartz, a four-term suburban Philadelphia congresswoman who is already heading up recruitment for the committee, will oversee candidate services — a position left vacant after Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was tapped to chair the Democratic National Committee.

The DCCC, under Schwartz’s hand, has already achieved several recruiting successes this cycle. Former Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, Christie Vilsack and former Wisconsin state Sen. Pat Kreitlow have announced that they will run for Congress in 2012. Earlier this month, Schwartz joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel in corralling recruits from 34 districts for a meet-and-greet event in Washington with top labor leaders.

You can see what kind of candidates she’s recruiting.

I’ve said this before, but I continue to be surprised that the administration is allowing so much play on the health care reforms. If that is his signature legacy you’d think he would exercise strong control over the Democrats on this one issue if nothing else. Certainly, the president is the head of the Democratic Party and could nix a big promotion of someone who is leading the charge to destroy the most important piece of the cost savings in the reforms if he wanted to. I don’t get why any of this is on the table. Particularly when the stakes are this high:

Likewise, to understand why so many forces are amassing against IPAB, it helps to know what it represents: namely, our best hope not only of reining in Medicare costs and hence future budget deficits, but also of reforming the exorbitant, entrenched, ineffective practice of American medicine itself.

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