Monday, January 25, 2010

Negotiating With a Fence Post

Whenever I hear Republican pols or Village commentators suggesting that Democrats ought to "start over from scratch" on Health Care, my immediate reaction is "with what?" Yesterday, defeated Republican Presidential candidate John McCain gave us an answer:

Mr. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said on the CBS news program "Face the Nation" that President Obama should sit down with Republican leaders and begin adopting some of their ideas for improving the nation's health care system such as overhauling medical malpractice lawsuits, allowing residents of one state to buy health insurance from a company in another state, and granting tax credits for people who purchase health insurance on their own.

In essence, McCain is proposing that we solve the health care problem using boilerplate Republican non-solutions. As Neil pointed out, the CBO estimated that the House Republican "plan" would result in no reduction in the percentage of Americans with health insurance. Now, if McCain is prepared to vote for a health care bill that consists of the current Senate bill plus some sort of tort reform, that would be something at least worth thinking about. But I don't think that's what he's saying; after all, when Obama asked House Republicans how many of them would be willing to vote for an otherwise left-leaning HCR bill that tacked on aggressive tort reform, he was met with bone-chilling silence.

The sad thing is that it doesn't have to be this way. There are serious right-leaning attempts to grapple with America's health care problem. Back in May of last year, Ezra Klein sketched out the Coburn-Ryan-Nunes plan, which is what a real Republican health care bill might look like. It's wouldn't be my first choice, and I don't think I'd vote for it as written, but it's a reasonable starting point for negotiations. But it went exactly no where. As an institution, the Republican party is showing zero interest in actually solving the problem or negotiating modest concessions to a majority-written bill. And that's the root cause of the lack of bipartisanship. Perhaps you could blame Obama for not doing more to integrate Coburn-Ryan-Nunes into the discussion. But GOP leadership deserves at least an equal share of that blame.

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