Did the President cave? Are we starting over?
We have been talking about health care for more than a year. Blood, sweat, and tears have been spilled, elections have been won and lost, and summits have been held. And yet, amid the fevered calls from the left to nuke the GOP and pass the thing through reconciliation, we learn today that the president will unveil a brand, new plan on Wednesday.
President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be “much smaller” than the House bill but “big enough” to put the country on a “path” toward health care reform, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday.
“In a matter of days, we will have a proposal,” Pelosi said, pointing to Obama’s forthcoming bill.
“It will be a much smaller proposal than we had in the House bill because that’s where we can gain consensus. But it will be big enough to put us on a path of affordable, quality health care for all Americans that holds insurance companies accountable.”
A senior administration official told Fox Obama’s proposal will be introduced Wednesday.
Recall that the single loudest message presented by the Republicans to the president before, during, and after the health care summit last week was to start over. And it now appears that he is doing just that.
The unveiling of a new proposal reflects the reality that reconciliation would mean the electoral destruction of the Democratic Party in November. A Republican source in the Senate observed in a telephone interview with me that passing the least popular domestic policy initiative in recent memory in that manner is highly unlikely given that, at the end of the day, politicians really do like their jobs more than any particular piece of legislation. So if they can’t do it through reconciliation, and they have to pass something, it seems only logical that the president has decided to start over.
The problem with starting over now is that (1) both the House and Senate would have to take up, debate, and vote on the new bill. That will certainly take a while, though it is hard to believe that the White House doesn’t already have some assurances of quick passage from Reid and Pelosi (then again, these were the folks who couldn’t even pass their own legislation, never mind somebody else’s) and (2) the bill will undoubtedly contain many of the same objectionable provisions that were in the first two bills. It could easily become The Bill that Ate the Obama Presidency.
It appears that the president has capitulated to the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose the current plans and want him to try another approach. If, as the Democrats keep telling us, the American people support certain components of the existing bills, which is no doubt true, then the president has an opportunity to propose the popular parts and leave out the unpopular ones. If he had done this last summer, he could have avoided a lot of the political damage he inflicted on himself and his Party.
He is an inexperienced president. Maybe he is learning.