Last week, I highlighted Doug Schoen’s op-ed in this post. I didn’t think much about it but upon further review, I think we might be seeing Clinton supporters becoming more critical of the Obama administration. It’s more plausible now that Mark Penn has written an op-ed critical of using reconciliation to pass health care reform:
Reconciliation has been used before to pass major legislation. Proponents of this approach are fond of pointing to the passage of welfare reform, COBRA, and Bush’s ’01 and ’03 tax cuts as evidence that the Democrats are fully inside the lines. For the administration, the most crucial difference between those bills and this is not their urgency, partisan nature, or even particularly their impact on the deficit; for Obama and his team, the most critical variant is that those bills were popular with the public. In 1996, 68% of Americans favored welfare reform. In 2000, before Bush’s $1.3 trillion tax cut was introduced (by the notably bipartisan duo of Senators Phil Gramm and Zell Miller,) 63% of Americans thought they were paying too much income tax; by the spring of 2001, after a month of legislative wrangling, 56% favored Bush’s proposed cuts. In 2003, with the Iraq war railing in the background and a post-9/11 economy flailing at home, 52% supported the second round of cuts. Not a huge margin, perhaps, but still a majority.
A February CNN poll puts voter support for the current bill (or a similar variant thereof) at just 25%. An equal percentage thinks Congress should forget health care reform altogether, while 48% think they should start work on an entirely new bill. Of more concern to any Democrat with an eye on reelection, Independents remain unmoved by the arguments in reform’s favor, with only 18% supporting it and 52% calling for an entirely new bill.
I’ve said numerous times that universal health care is the Democrats’ holy grail achievement. Sensible people like Mark Penn and Doug Schoen are considered heretics by the Deaniacs and Kossacks. By now, though, America has figured it out that, comparatively speaking, Penn and Schoen are sane people and that the Deaniac/Kossack bunch aren’t.
Democrats would be wise to heed this advice:
And there is a step-by-step approach that would make sense. Going one round at a time in health care reform, hand in hand with economic recovery, would be a strategic win for the administration. After Massachusetts, it would have made sense to pick out and pass those measures that help control costs and strengthen coverage while building up to the major expansion of coverage as the fiscal situation improved. There are lots of changes that have garnered support through this process. The polls show Americans would embrace a bill banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, overwhelmingly support a move to standardized electronic medical records and 66% favor some kind of caps on malpractice awards. Reduce costs, improve the system, and then expand coverage; that is the way to run this out strategically and bring along full public support.
I’ve said since Day One that the right way to do health care reform is to lower costs. By lowering costs, you’re increasing accessability. The Democrats’ approach is to cover everyone first, then work on the other facets later. That isn’t the right approach because it doesn’t do anything to control costs. Until that’s fixed, everything else is wasted effort.
I’m curious about the timing of these articles. Anything Clinton-related is intentional, not coincidental. I’m betting that President Clinton understands that the economy is struggling badly and that passing health care through reconciliation won’t fix the economy.
I also think that egos play a role in this. If President Obama passes comprehensive health care reform, he will, in his mind, hold something over President Clinton in the legacy department.
The main point to me is that the Democrats should listen to the saner voices of Mark Penn and Doug Schoen. Thus far, taking the Chicago road doesn’t appear to be working.
Cross-posted at California Conservative