Many things annoy me about the calls to "slow down" on health care coverage. But what most annoys me is the idea that we should wait for a "bipartisan" result, as the latest letter from the "Gang of Moderates Protecting Really Rich People" suggests.
In the abstract, these requests sound reasonable. But these requests assume that Republicans are interested in passing real reform -- which they're not. They've never made any serious efforts -- institutionally speaking -- to enact reform, and there's exactly zero reason to think that they will. They're slowing things down to kill reform -- and the Gang is facilitating them.
My hope is that this reality will eventually color the coverage of the Gang, who are often portrayed as Platonic statesmen, high above the fray of nasty partisanship. More broadly, I wish the reality would sink in that Republicans (again, institutionally) aren't interested in passing meaningful policy reform on either of the two most pressing issues of the day -- health care and energy.
Exhibit A for this argument is the good Senator from Arizona, John McCain. One frustrating aspect of McCain's campaign coverage was that it often treated him as a strong environmentalist. Several editorials said something to the effect of "We're so lucky to get to choose between two candidates who embrace cap-and-trade." Here's the LA Times:
And the Post:
And David Simon's favorite paper:
John McCain was good at saying enough to get Sunday morning talk show praise. But when the real effort was needed, "national leader" McCain has been almost uniformly critical. He's referred to the plan as "cap and tax," and has provided no muscle whatsoever in building political support for this effort. And remember -- he's supposedly the best one.
And that's the larger problem. Republicans aren't serious about doing anything on either front. A McCain administration wouldn't have pushed for a real cap and trade; neither would it have pushed for real health care reform beyond nibbling at the edges of the status quo. The GOP just isn't interested -- and all the debates about "costs" shouldn't obscure this fundamental reality.
The Dems should hold together on the procedural votes, and then oppose the ultimate bill if they want. But there's no reason to bend over backwards to appease the GOP. Let Olympia Snowe and Chuck Grassley and Richard Burr take their chances on voting no.
This opportunity is likely fleeting -- and so the Dems shouldn't hold up the process under the pretense that Republicans are going to shift on anything. When they do, I'm all for bipartisan compromise. But given the lack of real effort, for decades really, the strong presumption should that they will not.