Health Care Plan? What Health Care Plan?
It is a measure of the disarray in which the president finds his top legislative priority that he had to ask the country in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday not to "bet against us" on health care reform. Well, if that's the best the president can do, then one might suspect that his health care plan is in trouble. Deep trouble.
But that, as lawyers like to say, assumes "facts not in evidence." Truth be told there is no "plan." At least not any plan on which even the Democrats can all agree upon. Yuval Levin, observing the president's appearance and declaration that "the plan" would not add to the deficit, wrote:
What in the world is the president talking about? Where is the committee in the House or Senate that has offered up a bill that will not add to the deficit? What bill would that be? Even in their own terms, with all the gimmicks they've been able to come up with, the plans the Democrats have proposed so far are all enormously expensive, and no one has yet proposed a way to pay for them. So what is the "it" the president has in mind exactly?
The White House is leaving the details up to Congress. Despite the president's accusation that "special interests" are to blame for the slow progress on health care, the reality is that Democrats cannot agree among themselves on the specifics -- or even the general outlines -- of a bill. We are told a bill will be out today, but alas it isn't really the "finished product," Speaker Nancy Pelosi concedes. ( Translation: they need to get something, anything out there.)
Last Friday House Blue Dog Democrats revolted and prevented release of any plan. Over the weekend Democrats suggested the president wasn't going to get his bill by the August recess.
It is not hard to see why they are stuck in neutral.
The president, Pelosi, and the liberal leadership in the Senate insist on the "public option." But not a single Republican has embraced a government insurance plan that would almost surely push private insurers out of business. And Democrats including Tom Daschle (who was to lead Obama's health care effort until felled by tax problems) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad have come out against the idea.
Then there is the funding problem. Rep. Charlie Rangel wants to soak the rich with a so-called surtax. That is a clever way of saying the liberal Democrats would like to hike marginal tax rates to levels not seen since the 1970s and sock it to the thousands of small businesses which are taxed under individual tax rates. But that idea makes plenty of Democrats including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin nervous. Republicans rejected the idea out of hand:
Representative Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, told the Fox News Sunday program Rangel's bill included an "incredible half a trillion dollar tax on folks making over $200,000 a year."
"Half of those people are the ones making the decision as to whether to hire Americans or not," he said, asking why the government would make it more difficult for them to hire people now out of work due to the recession.