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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Psssst....It's Too Big!

There is much furor among left wing Democrats and the far left over Independent Senator Joe Lieberman standing in the way of the Senate passing the 2,000 page health care bill from Harry Reid. From the beginning Lieberman has said he will oppose any bill that expands MediCare or has a government insurance option. Evidently when Reid sent his minions to write his bill he either did not listen to Lieberman, figured Lieberman would not be able to discern the provisions in 2000 pages of legal gobbly-gook, or did not believe he would stand firm on his position. Playing political poker Reid included the provisions for both expanding MediCare and a public option; calculating Lieberman would not want to tick off Democrats and be the lone vote in the way for passing historic legislation.

Desperately needing Lieberman's vote to reach the magic number of 60 needed to end debate and get a floor vote on his bill, Reid publicly has made no statements regarding Lieberman and his position. Instead Reid has focused his ire on Republicans for blocking the legislation--comparing the Republican position to that held by Democrats in the 1800's who blocked anti-slavery legislation and 1950's Democrats who blocked Civil Rights legislation.

Reid has shown he is not the brightest person in the Senate. Lieberman owes nothing to him nor the Democrats. Reid forgets that in 2006 Democrats ran a candidate against Lieberman in the primary election for his Senate seat and defeated Lieberman. Immediately following the election Lieberman announced he would run as an Independent. Reid quickly announced that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee supported and endorsed Lieberman's opponent, Ned Lamont. The campaign was quite heated and vitriolic with Lamont and the Democrats tying Lieberman to President Bush in every speech, every campaign piece, every interview. For the DSCC and Lamont's campaign it was as if the Evil Axis crafting war on the American people was Bush-Cheney-Rove-Lieberman.

Lieberman won quite handily, beating Lamont and the GOP candidate combined. The people of Connecticut spoke, "We like Joe more than we like Harry." Back on Capitol Hill Lieberman received a chilly reception and many Democrats wanted Reid to yank his seniority on committees and any leadership positions he held. When 2008 came around and Democrats held 59 seats in the Senate plus Lieberman who has continued to caucus with Democrats everyone quickly realized that unless a Republican or two jump the aisle, Lieberman is critical to all Senate votes. He therefore needs to be listened to, everyone understands this but the Majority Leader, Harry Reid.

Hence where we find ourselves this morning. In order to get Lieberman's vote Reid needs to scrap, at minimum, the government insurance option and expansion of MediCare. In doing so he upsets the far left Senators and can lose more votes. While that fight goes on the next ones to rear their heads are the abortion provisions and costs. Some Democrats will not support a bill that provides any federal funds to pay for abortions or loosens regulations on abortions, other Democrats say they will not support any bill that does not include abortion assistance nor tightens regulations. Some Democrats actually care what the cost of this legislation is to Americans today and tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that.

And on and on the battles within the party continue on this massive legislation. All the while trying to cobble together the 60 votes he needs from within his own caucus, Reid is blaming Republicans for blocking the legislation--such a bold false statement as to be comical. Members of Reid's caucus are balking at the cost, balking at specific provisions and balking at the lack of information, but because the Republican members of the Senate have stayed united thus far in opposition to such a massive bill and its costs it is their fault Reid cannot deliver a bill to President Obama.

This bill is a disaster as written and a disaster if passed. Politically it is guaranteed to cost many Democrats their seats in the 2010 elections, and again in 2012 and more in 2014 when the laws begin to take effect. Because it aims not to reform the health care system in our country but rather to build a brand new one at enormous costs it is destined to end many political careers. Ignoring that almost 60% of Americans oppose the bill, and the more than 45% who strongly oppose it, Reid and the majority of Senate Democrats continue blindly down the path of trying to pass a bill that has not yet been fully released and disclosed and not yet had a full and accurate Congressional Budget Office cost analysis.

From the beginning I have said this bill and effort by Democrats is too big to succeed. Politically the Democrats and the Obama Administration would be better off taking smaller steps in reforming health care. Put forth a legislative time line that goes beyond 2010 that would entice voters to re-elect their Senators and Representatives so they can maintain their majorities. Instead of a legislative mantra and mandate from the White House of "just pass something" it should be "one-step at a time."

Tackle first the biggest external cost to health care delivery: tort reform. Instead of going against the people who voted for you, go against the trial lawyers who contribute to your campaigns. Simple tort reform eliminates billions of dollars in defensive diagnosis, defensive tests and defensive procedures.

Then tackle insurance costs. Allow insurers to compete nationally. Democrats love to tout how the marketplace needs competition but they will not allow insurance companies to compete. The competition is restricted by federal and state laws.

Once these two low hanging fruit have been knocked down then tackle fraud and abuse in MediCare and MediCaid/Cal. Obama has admitted it costs Americans billions and billions of dollars (most estimates are 10% of the total program budgets). So do something about it separate from massive legislation. Instead of paying for the fraud and abuse by lowering payments to health care providers, save the money being wasted and stolen by cracking down on it.

If Obama were to lead a concerted, continuing and successful effort to pass health care reform piece, by piece, by piece, he would fulfill the promise so many put in him in November 2008. He would show leadership, foresight, vision and success. Re-election in 2012 almost guaranteed and poll numbers slipping into the low 40's turning into high 50's or low 60's. Instead he sits on the sidelines until the last minute when it appears his pre-written legacy may need some editing and admonishes, scolds and tries to frighten Legislators to quickly pass a bill. Time being more important than substance or consequence.

Joe Lieberman is taking considerable heat from Democrats and liberals for maintaining his stand, on the other side he is being applauded for sticking by his word--that he gave Reid very early on in this debate. Hopefully his stance and the resulting altering of Reid's bill will derail this current health care reform effort and we can start again. But smaller and in targeted detail that does not obfuscate the provisions nor costs from the American people.

In the meantime why all the heat on Joe for standing by his position and no heat on the other 59 Senators who caved into his position and abandoned theirs?

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