Obama’s press conference was not aimed at the recalcitrant members of his own party who are balking at passing health care reform. For some reason, he can’t quite bring himself to do much in the way of traditional arm twisting and private lecturing that has been the hallmark of successful presidents in the past.
Instead, his message was aimed at the American people who are beginning to doubt the president can deliver what he promised and are becoming leery of the plan as it is emerging from Congress.
Jane Sassen of Business Week:
While insisting that his own proposal to cut the amount of tax deductions wealthy taxpayers could write off for their charitable contributions would be better, the President said such a measure would “meet my principle” that the costs should not be borne “by families already having a tough time.”
Of course, providing answers to tough funding questions wasn’t the aim of the press conference, as least from the White House point of view. The goal was to make a convincing case to keep public support for the plans from eroding. And at that, he may well have succeeded. The prime time hour may not have done much to move the needle in Congress, where the nitty-gritty proposals are being hashed out. But the President probably helped tamp down some of the increasing doubts that the American public has expressed recently about health care reforms as details have emerged. And that, after all, was his real job for the night.
Meanwhile, the senate’s #2 Democrat Dick Durbin says that the reform bill will not be taken up before the August recess as Taylor Rushing of The Hill reports:
“We’re going to take a little longer to get it right,” Durbin told The Hill when asked about the oft-stated goal of a vote on or before Aug. 7, when a monthlong Senate recess begins. “Initially we had hoped for a full vote by then, but I don’t think it’s going to be possible.”
Delaying the vote until after Labor Day would all but erase hopes of getting a bill to President Obama by mid-October, since the House and Senate versions would have to be reconciled in conference negotiations - assuming they pass their chambers.Durbin said the bill was still largely on track, however, denying that momentum has stalled.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “This is a complex challenge, and we’re taking a reasonable approach with it. It would be better if some Republicans joined us instead of just criticizing.”
Just wait until Democratic congressmen and senators start talking to their constituents about this bill while they are home during the recess. They will no doubt get an earful. Also, several independent groups are planning massive ad campaigns during the recess targeting Blue Dog Democrats as well as those in districts that were carried by George Bush or John McCain.
The question has been raised by the bill’s supporters that even bad reform is better than no reform at all. Such would be the case if there weren’t other options, other ideas out there - none of which got any hearing whatsoever by the progressives in both the House and the Senate who were handed the ball by the president and have created this monstrosity on their own.
It is simple minded to dismiss these options as “more of the same” tax cuts and the like from the GOP. The GOP alternative that some liberals were surprised in that it was fairly comprehensive, would not have raised taxes on anybody, rich or poor, and in the end, probably have induced more people who are currently uninsured to get coverage. There were many problems with the bill - the tax credit for families to buy insurance was ridiculously low, for example - but it addressed almost all of the same problems the Democrat’s bill does including coverage for pre-existing conditions, Medicare reform, portable insurance, and a host of other elements the Democrats want us to pay a trillion dollars for.
The Wall Street Journal had the bare bones outline:
The nexus of their plan is redirecting the $300 billion annual tax subsidy for employment-based health insurance to individuals in the form of refundable, advanceable tax credits. Families would get $5,700 a year and individuals $2,300 to buy insurance and invest in Health Savings Accounts.
Low-income Americans would get a supplemental debit card of up to $5,000 to help them purchase insurance and pay out-of-pocket costs. They would have an incentive to spend wisely since up to one-fourth of any unspent money in the accounts could be rolled over to the next year. The combination of the refundable tax credit and debit card gives lower-income Americans a way out of the Medicaid ghetto so they can have the dignity of private insurance.
The great majority of Americans with job-based health insurance would see little more than a bookkeeping change with the Patients’ Choice plan. But implicit in the policy is the acknowledgment that our system of tying health insurance to the workplace is not working for upwards of 45 million uninsured Americans.
As I said, the bill is far from perfect and some of it makes assumptions as unreasonable as are in the Democratic bill. And the GOP bill isn’t the only alternative game in town. There are dozens of proposals - equally untried as anything in the Democratic bill I might add - floating around that have never been examined, studied, or debated by Congress because Obama wants his reform RIGHT NOW - despite the fact that a careful vetting of ideas in the Democratic bill or any alternative has not been done.
Why can’t my liberal friends see that this is no way to reform 1/6 of the economy? This massive, untested, unproven, Gorgon of a bill is being rushed through with nobody reading it, no one measuring the consequences, and no one weighing the effect on ordinary people’s lives. And it being rushed through not because if we delay 6 months or a year, anything bad will happen. It is being rushed for the sole and exclusive purpose of giving the president of the United States a legislative victory. Politics trumps sanity in this case. And if you want the bill now, you are part of a Kabuki play that almost certainly is going to cost more, cause more problems, and perhaps even make things worse than if we slowed down and looked at the health care problem rationally.
But there are many good ideas that haven’t even been examined because the liberals have a monumental distaste for the free market. Government cannot order costs to be lowered any more than King Canute could order the tide to recede. Market based incentives, both logically and intuitively, would work better, more efficiently, and more cheaply than the simple lowering of Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals the liberals have in mind, not to mention the “intelligent” rationing of services we are told that will result from passage of this bill.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi was bragging to reporters that she has the votes right now to pass a health reform bill in the House. That’s a lie, as two Democratic congressmen confirmed tp Deidre Walsh of CNN :
Nancy Pelosi’s statement Wednesday that Democrats have the votes to pass health care in the House. “I think the Speaker was well intended because she was hearing optimistic things, but I don’t believe there are the votes on the floor as of right now,” he said Wednesday.
Hill said he and other Blue Dogs were meeting again Wednesday night with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. Hill said they’re “making progress,” but still have significant issues to resolve. Nancy Ann DeParle from the White House was involved in an earlier meeting with Blue Dogs, he said.
Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who is trying to change the bill to make it clear it would not use taxpayer money for abortions, also disagreed with the Speaker.
“It would be easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than to pass this bill,” said Stupak.
Stupak said Democratic leaders can’t lose 40 votes if they want to pass the bill and predicted “she [Pelosi] would lose more than 40 on the right to life issue alone. There’s just no way.”
Stupak said he doesn’t want to block the bill, but wants leaders to agree to add language on the abortion issue before it comes to the House floor.
Pelosi has a revolt on both her right and left, with the progressive caucus getting angrier with each concession made to the moderates.
In the end, the bill might die a death by a thousand cuts as the final effort may contain so many objectionable elements to so many Democrats that it won’t have a prayer of passing.
The lack of leadership on this bill by the president has been astounding. While he has occasionally met with members at the White House, his efforts have fallen far short of whipping his reluctant party into line. He makes speeches. He holds town halls, He goes before his friends in the press.
But the nitty gritty political work he is leaving to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and at least 5 committee chairmen. While no one has ever doubted the president’s skills as a campaigner, it is apparent he doesn’t know how to lead. He can’t distinguish a difference between campaigning and governing.
And there is a real possibility, no longer remote, that he will fail to bring any health care bill to a vote this year.