Imagine for a moment that you work for the White House and you want to pass a bipartisan health care reform bill.
On one side, you have progressives who are insisting on the public option. On the other side, you have conservatives who say the public option is unacceptable.
But you strongly suspect that the GOP will oppose any health care reform bill–no matter what concessions you make–and that they’re only using the public option as a pretext. What do you do?
You do what the White House did this past weekend–you float a trial balloon indicating that you might be willing to ditch the public option:
- The Associated Press: White House appears ready to drop ‘public option’
- Politico: White House backs away from public health care option
- USA Today: Obama may drop public option in health care
- The Huffington Post: Sebelius: Public Health Care Option “Not The Essential Element”
Now, much of the GOP’s opposition to health care reform is rooted in attacking the public option as some kind of government takeover of the health care system. If the White House were to drop the public option and embrace the alternative–health care co-ops–much of the GOP’s case against health care reform would collapse.
So, in response to the White House’s overture, the GOP started attacking health care co-ops:
- Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (AZ) called co-ops a “Trojan horse” for government-controlled health care and said the GOP wouldn’t support them.
- Sen. Jim DeMint (SC) called co-ops “a government takeover of health care” and said they were basically the same as the public option.
- A GOP press release called co-ops “another form of government-run health care” and deemed them a “‘public option’ by any other name”
Sure enough, today we woke up to this in The New York Times:
Democrats Seem Set to Go It Alone on a Health Bill
Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.
Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.
Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said the heated opposition was evidence that Republicans had made a political calculation to draw a line against any health care changes, the latest in a string of major administration proposals that Republicans have opposed
The White House wanted to see if the GOP was willing to compromise on health care reform. So they floated a trial balloon, which the Republicans swiftly shot down.
So while the GOP had a chance to kill the public option, instead they tipped their hand and showed that no concession will ever be good enough for them.
And now that the Obama administration knows the GOP won’t support any compromise on health care reform, the White House says they’re just going to pass it without Republican votes.
If Democrats want to reform the health care system, they’re going to have to go it alone. I wish that weren’t the case, but the GOP painted us into this corner and they’re going to have to live with the consequences.
But the White House managed to show that the GOP isn’t going to accept any kind of health care reform, period. And I think revealing that the GOP is dealing in bad faith will help Democrats pass health care reform without having to win Republican votes.