It’s Dead, Jim, Part III

Ezra Klein:

The public option died tonight. So, it seems, did its eager successor, the Medicare buy-in. Harry Reid buried the ideas at a somber meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “Could it have been better?” asked Sen. Jay Rockefeller. “Yeah. But it could’ve been so much worse if we’d just decided not to do anything because we didn’t get everything we wanted.”

The calculation, in the end, was pretty simple. The White House wants the Senate done with health-care legislation by Christmas. The argument is that big bills rarely fail in a dramatic vote. They bleed to death slowly, wasting away amid a procession of delays and procedural setbacks. The longer a health-care reform bill takes, the less likely it is to pass.

Worse, the longer health-care reform takes, the longer it is until Democrats can shift the spotlight back to jobs and the economy. The Obama administration wants to use the State of the Union as a turning point. Health-care reform would be the shining first year accomplishment, allowing the president to begin the election-year pivot to jobs and the economy and the deficit. But if health-care reform is to pass by early next year, it will have to clear the Senate before the end of this year.

Conn Carroll at Heritage:

According to recent reports, the Medicare buy-in compromise that Majority leader Reid (D-NV) and President Barack Obama heralded as the grand health care compromise just last week, is now dead. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is being credited with killing Reid’s deal, and some are even suggesting that the entire idea of a public option is dead. But do not be fooled.

Through incremental expansions of government programs like the State Children’s Health Insurance (SCHIP) program the left has been slowly moving us closer to single payer government run health care system for decades. Obamacare will only accelerate that trend; the only question is how fast. You can’t take the public option out of Obamacare. Obamacare is a public plan. Here are five reasons why:

1. Obamacare Raises, Not Lowers, Health Care Costs. According to President’s own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, both the House and Senate health bills raise overall health care spending in the United States. The House bill would raise national health expenditures by $289 billion and the Senate bill would raise them by $234 billion.

2. Federal Regulation of Health Insurance. Both the House and Senate bills would result in sweeping and complex federal regulation of health insurance that will create a one-size-fits-all federal health plan that will drive up (not down, as promised by the President) the cost of health insurance.

3. A Ticking Entitlement Time-Bomb. Both the House and Senate would dramatically expand eligibility for Medicaid and extend generous taxpayer-funded subsidies to the middle class. Combined, such commitments are the biggest cost items in the bills would result in scores of Americans dependent on the government to finance their health care. Both bills hide their true costs by claiming cuts and program restrictions that are unlikely to stick. In this regard, the Senate bill is far worse, creating staggering discrepancies between what families with the same incomes would pay for health insurance based on who they bought their insurance through. When future Congress’ “fix” these inequalities, the true cost of Obamacare will skyrocket. According to a recent analysis by the Lewin Group (for the Peterson Foundation) just by adding in the doctor fix (which they should), the Senate and House bills will add to the deficit — $196 Billion in the first 10 years and $765 increase in the second decade under the Senate bill.

4. Employer Mandates. Both the House and Senate bills would impose penalties on many employers. An employer mandate would hurt low-income workers and would stifle much-needed economic growth. Our country does not need a job killing employment tax at a time of 10.2% unemployment.

5. Individual Mandates. Both the House and Senate bills would require virtually all people to obtain health care coverage or pay a penalty, an unprecedented an unconstitutional first for the federal government. Those individuals who do not purchase government qualified health care coverage would be subject to new tax penalties and in some cases jail time.

Steve Benen:

As for whether a bill that was teetering on the verge of death yesterday can pass the Senate in 10 days, Reid and the Democratic leadership will have no margin for error. Keep in mind, when Republicans filibuster, it not only creates a 60-vote requirement, it also delays the post-cloture vote by 30 hours. In this case, Reid has to craft a “manager’s amendment” to reflect all of the various changes, hold a vote on it, then overcome a GOP filibuster on the bill, then get a final floor vote.

All the while, the leadership has to make sure Lieberman doesn’t find new things to complain about, keep Ben Nelson from blocking the bill over indirect abortion subsidies, and keep sounding out Snowe and Collins.

It’s doable, but threading this needle is no small task.

As for the notion of “ping-ponging,” and skipping the conference committee, the likelihood of this happening is now close to zero — in light of the new concessions to Lieberman, House Dems want a discussion about this bill.

Megan McArdle:

Last time I looked, Ben Nelson was saying no deal unless there’s a Stupak amendment.  As far as I know, there is still no Stupak amendment.  And as Ezra says, Snowe will not do a deal before Christmas.  Unless I’m missing something, even if Lieberman signs on, the count is still at 59.

Jonathan Cohn at TNR:

Disappointed progressives may be wondering whether their efforts were a waste. They most decidedly were not. The campaign for the public option pushed the entire debate to the left–and, to use a military metaphor, it diverted enemy fire away from the rest of the bill. If Lieberman and his allies didn’t have the public option to attack, they would have tried to gut the subsidies, the exchanges, or some other key element. They would have hacked away at the bill, until it left more people uninsured and more people under-insured. The public option is the reason that didn’t happen.

And if public option supporters lost in the Congress, they won in the country as a whole. The underlying political problem for liberals remains what it has been for a generation: profound and widespread distrust of government. But polls consistently showed voters thought the public option advocates were right–that, at least when it comes to health insurance, government can be trusted. It was a small victory, but it’s on top of such small victories that political movements are built. Someday in the future, that movement may be powerful enough to win more sweeping changes. Who knows, maybe those changes will include a government-run insurance plan.

Byron York at Washington Examiner:

Of course, going forward has turned out to be harder than many Democrats thought. And now, with various proposals lying wrecked along the road, the true believers are practicing what the strategist calls “principled damage control.”

But still, does it make sense? In the end, perhaps the most compelling explanation for Democratic behavior is that they are simply in too deep to do anything else. “Once you’ve gone this far, what is the cost of failure?” asks the strategist.

At that point — Republicans will love this — he compared congressional Democrats with robbers who have passed the point of no return in deciding to hold up a bank. Whatever they do, they’re guilty of something. “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

That’s it. Democrats are all in. They’re going through with it. Even if it kills them.

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