fresh voices from the front lines of change







The President and congressional leaders have repeatedly acceded to the demands of the right-leaning faction of the Democratic Party on health care. Typically, when congresspeople get what they want in a bill, they proceed to vote for that bill.

Yet not one Democratic “No” vote on the more liberal House health care bill has stepped up to say “Yes” to the compromise that has everything they asked for.

The New Republic’s Neera Tanden yesterday made a polite call for conservaDem support:

Let’s go issue by issue. The Blue Dogs opposed the public plan that featured so prominently in the House bill. Well, the Senate scrapped that a long time ago. Blue Dogs wanted more cost-containment policies. Well, the Senate bill is not just stronger, but substantially so. It features a robust Independent Payment Advisory Board with authority to lower Medicare payment rates. The House bill doesn’t even have such a commission. The Senate bill also has stronger provisions to push payment reform through a new “innovation center” that will reward quality of care, rather than the volume of care that doctors provide. These are important moves away from the fee-for-service system.

Some House moderates criticized the House bill for taxing the rich. Lucky for them, that’s barely in the Senate bill. While the House bill used the millionaire’s tax to raise $460 billion in revenues, the Senate bill has a Medicare tax that raises only $87 billion from high-income folks.

What about deficit reduction? Both the House and Senate bills would reduce the deficit by upwards of $100 billion over the next decade, but the Congressional Budget Office gives the Senate bill better marks over the next decade on longer-term savings. The CBO says the Senate bill “would reduce federal budget deficits over the decade after 2019 relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of GDP.”

If they won all these battles, why the hesitation? According to their own words, conservaDems simply ignore that they successfully killed the public option, and whine about cost.

But that makes no sense, because all versions of health care legislation have been deemed as cutting the deficit and bending the long-term cost curve downward.

So if their substantive claim doesn’t make sense, the only remaining reason in political.

They’re afraid the bill will be unpopular, because polls show skepticism of “the bill”, even though they show support for the main provisions of bill.

Why the disconnect?

Well maybe because all these conservaDems keep talking about how costly the bill is, instead of praising to the skies that the bill WILL CUT THE DEFICIT.

A part of me would prefer conservaDems to bail on their own bill.

Voting against provision they fought for, for cheap political reasons would definitively prove that these are not principled centrists heroically resisting ideological purity, but timid political hacks who should not be allow to ruin every policy idea that comes down the pike.

But the sober side of me knows if they do sink the bill, the message of conservaDem hackery would not be heard.

The message would be of progressive failure to pass health care reform. And 30 million people would go without health insurance and the costs for everyone would continue to mushroom.

So we need to do everything we can to convert previous Dem “No” votes to “Yes” (because of death and resignations, the House cannot rely on only the “Yes” votes from before).

That means we need to make the conservaDems case for them, so it will be harder for them to run scared from taking action.

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