We’ve now reached the stage of maximum negotiation. Congressional Democrats who have every intention of voting for health care reform (or who would never dare to be the one who kills it) are fighting like hell to defend certain narrow interests. Some want to limit fees on medical device manufacturers, while others want to protect labor health plans from taxes, or prevent a surtax on millionaires in their districts, or decouple a public option’s reimbursement rate from Medicare, or lower the fines on people who ignore the mandate, or kill the mandate altogether, or kill the public option altogether. Some Dems are going to win in these fights and some are going to lose. But, at the end of the day, there is going to be a giant piece of legislation on the table that represents the president’s top domestic priority item. Who will dare cast the deciding vote that defeats it?
This is why it is so important to keep the ball moving even if it occasionally bounces sideways, or even backwards. HillaryCare died when the Finance Committee, under the chairmanship of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, couldn’t report out a bill. It now looks certain that ObamaCare will pass that mile-marker sometime this week when Max Baucus’s Finance Committee reports out its bill. That will put us in new uncharted territory, but it will also make it all that much harder for any member of the Democratic caucus to step in and kill off the effort. The closer we get, the less likely it is that even a Ben Nelson or a Evan Bayh or a Joe Lieberman or a Blanche Lincoln will be the one vote that kills health care reform.
And, the less likely they are to pull that trigger, the less likely it is that we will need to cede to their demands. I have been working on a basic assumption. My assumption is that Obama wants to pass a bill that is as close as possible to the bill that he campaigned on. I have very little reason to believe that he wants to cave on his stated goals for any other reason than he is compelled to by political reality. When the fight comes right down to the the end-game nitty-gritty, I assume Obama will be fighting for what he said he would be fighting for.
He’s within reach of accomplishing that goal now. He needs two things to happen. He needs the House to pass a bill with a robust public option and he needs Harry Reid to make the HELP bill the cornerstone of the Senate bill, and not the Finance bill. Then he must rely on sheer momentum, and the reticence of skeptical Democratic senators to kill reform at the very end of the process, to carry the day.
You can help by lobbying Congress to meet those two criteria.