Code Blue! Health Care Reform May Be Dying

“Back to the drawing board,” announced Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on health care reform.  Indeed, it seems that in one short week, the single most important item on the president's agenda is in need of some critical care. Politico reported:

Democrats’ triumphant rollout of a sweeping health care reform bill earlier this week already feels like a distant memory.

Rank-and-file Democrats don’t like it -- and aren’t afraid to say so. The speaker has already backpedaled on a key tax increase -- putting her in a weaker negotiating position. And one outspoken Democratic critic doesn’t think his leaders are “even close” to the votes they need to pass it.

But perhaps the biggest blow came from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf, who told a Senate committee Thursday that legislation offered in both chambers “significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.” In other words, it doesn’t fix the problem of runaway cost.

The president rushed to the microphone on Friday afternoon to assure the country the patient was fine, just undergoing some expected surgery and far from terminal. Absent was any mention of his August deadline, however. He appeared miffed at "Washington" and the "24-hour news cycle." He took no questions, likely because he had few answers to the hard queries. (Why is his own party in revolt? Why would he raise taxes on small businesses? Why don't people like the idea of a "public option" as much as they did a few months ago?) Despite Obama's lecture and show of bravado ("this is going to happen"), all signs pointed to the demise of the House Democrats’ trillion dollar, soak-the-rich public option scheme. And it is far from clear what replacement plan might be offered.

Twenty-one freshmen congressmen and a second-termer banded together to write a letter opposing the House Democrats' proposed surtax on the “wealthy,” complaining that now is no time for a tax hike on high income earners which includes thousands of small businesses. They wrote, “Especially in a recession, we need to make sure not to kill the goose that will lay the golden eggs of our recovery. We are concerned that this will discourage entrepreneurial activity.”