The Health Care Reversal


Dave Mann

Don’t look now, but the fortunes of the health care reform bill have greatly mproved. The AP is reporting today that Democrats in Congress hope to pass health care reform before Easter, which is three weeks away.

That’s quite a reversal. Just a few weeks ago, it appeared Congressional Democrats lacked the political will to push ahead on health care after Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat went Republican.

Ezra Klein has an interesting take on his Washington Post blog. He writes:

“Over the past 48 hours or so, you’ve seen the pieces falling into place on the path forward for health-care reform. Timetables have leaked, putting passage somewhere in mid- to late March….Kent Conrad, who will run the reconciliation process, has been loudly defending it, and even Lieberman is professing himself ‘open to reconciliation.

“I’ve said many times before that health care passes in a vote or dies in silence. If Democrats didn’t think they had the numbers, they wouldn’t bring the bill to the floor. Instead, they’d swear their fealty to the project but turn their attention to other priorities and schedule their speeches on other subjects. But that’s not happening. Democrats are setting up their process, giving speeches and interviews, adding Republican ideas, and setting new deadlines. They’re bringing this to a vote. And that means they’re confident that they’ll win the vote.”

I’ve written before how health care reform, as currently constructed, would help millions of Texans.

If it does pass, much of the credit for resurrecting the bill should go to Obama. The president refused to abandon his goal of comprehensive reform when many commentators were urging the White House to break the proposal into small, bite-sized pieces. That was the politically easy out, and Obama didn’t take it. Instead, he released his own comprehensive proposal two weeks ago, a move that re-energized the process.

And, having apparently learned from its mistakes last year, the White House is making better use of the bully pulpit. Obama is making a more convincing case for reform this time around, while also inviting Republicans into the process (or at least making a show of it), while pressing Congressional Democrats to move forward.

Even Obama’s most ardent supporters would have to admit he’s had a rough first year. But by salvaging health care reform the past three weeks, Obama has—for one of the few times in his presidency—shown effective leadership.