Now or never?
In a matter of weeks, we will know whether significant reform of the nation’s health-care system will pass in Congress. With their ability to stop filibusters in the Senate eliminated by the recent Massachusetts election, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress faced a decision: scrap everything they had done on health care over the past year, or use a filibuster-exempt process known as reconciliation. There really was no decision to be made. Reconciliation is the only option, because Republicans have never and will never negotiate in good faith on health care. If, at the beginning of the reform process, Obama had offered legislation that was an exact replica of what the GOP is now touting as its “plan,” the Republicans would have been unanimously against it, solely because it was proposed by Obama. They have no interest in real health-care reform, offering only piecemeal approaches that would likely do little to make health care significantly more affordable or cover very many of those currently without insurance. Nevertheless, Obama has offered to include several of the GOP proposals in the final health-care bill. Republicans, of course, are not satisfied. And, of course, their idea for how health-care reform should proceed is for Obama and the Democrats to totally kill every bit of what they've done to this point and start over, start over, start over, start over. Why did I just type "start over" four times. Because that's how the Republicans sound, like a broken record. Apparently, they received a script from GOP headquarters telling them that anytime they are asked a question about health-care reform, their reply must be, like a trained parrot, to squawk, “START OVER!" If the Democrats did agree to start anew, does anyone really believe that Republicans would engage in good-faith negotiations on health care? Of course not. They would do as little as possible, as slowly as possible, while filibustering each and every item that showed any sign that it might hurt the big insurance companies. And the Republicans still may get their wish. Democratic unity is a non-entity. There are a lot of Democrats in Congress who are clearly more interested in their re-election prospects than pondering whether the reform bill would be good for their constituents. There's no doubt that they are facing an angry electorate. It's not surprising, considering that the economy is still struggling to rebound, and that Republicans have spent the past year spreading misinformation and outright lies about the health-care measures, including false claims about abortion funding and the “death panels.” But at some point, people who claim to be leaders have to have the courage to cast unpopular votes, if they believe those votes are in the best interest of the people they represent. The key objections raised by opponents of real health-care reform are the cost of such an effort and the government involvement. Well, doing nothing clearly isn't working in terms of controlling costs, and if not the government, who is going to put a stop to the mess that exists today? I'm pretty sure that insurance companies and drug-makers aren't going to cut us all a break out of the goodness of their hearts.