What was once seen as preordained now seems problematic.
A massive reworking of the American health care system, with government as a central player, was thought to be unavoidable with the election of Barack Obama and large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. But gradually, as the public and conservative opposition has mounted, there is a real question as to whether we actually will see health care "reform" -- at least anything resembling what liberal Democrats have pined for these many years.
The idea of health care reform -- like "New Politics," or "hope and change" -- was most viable when it was most abstract. The CBO cost estimate of more than a trillion dollars and gradual disenchantment with a public option plan has stalled the health care reform train.
And now Congress seems stuck. Roll Call reports:
Capping off a month of intense negotiations on health care reform, a bipartisan group of senators who serve on the Finance Committee released a statement Thursday pledging to continue their effort to reach a consensus on legislation when Congress returns from its July Fourth recess.
"Reforming America's health care system is a tremendous challenge, but it's a challenge we simply have to face," the senators said. "The issues facing reform are difficult and complex, but over the past several months, we've made progress toward workable solutions. As we have been for the last several weeks, we are committed to continuing our work toward a bipartisan bill that will lower costs and ensure quality, affordable care for every American."
Various members of the Finance Committee met privately at least three times on Thursday but were not scheduled to meet again until after the July Fourth break.
While opposition mounted and Congress thrashed about for a solution, the president -- with considerable assistance from ABC -- tried once again to sell his brand of health care to the American people. But few tuned in and platitudes no longer will carry the day. The hard questions remain: what will be in the plan and how are we going to pay for it?
As details have come to light, criticism has increased and lawmakers have become more nervous. James Capretta explains that voting for the ObamaCare scheme may prove to be very unpopular:
The largest tax increase in decades, which would hit the middle-class too. The movement of tens of millions of people out of job-based coverage and into government-run insurance. Deep, arbitrary, and cost-shifting cuts in Medicare's reimbursement rates. Job-killing mandates on employers. And, most especially, the prospect of government intrusion into medical practice and the rationing of care. These are all highly unpopular steps with most voters, and the Democratic strategy is predicated on somehow getting all of them passed in one bill.