The potential for pain from the Gang of Six

THE POTENTIAL FOR PAIN FROM THE GANG OF SIX…. Yesterday, six Senate “centrists” insisted that any momentum health care reform might have had come to a complete stop. The group — two Republicans, three Democrats, and Joe Lieberman — said lawmakers need more time. It wasn’t entirely clear what they intend to do with more time, but they want it anyway.

Paul Krugman thinks these “centrists” have the capacity to kill the entire reform campaign.

Will the destructive center kill health care reform? It looks all too possible.

What’s especially galling is the hypocrisy of their claimed reason for delaying progress — concern about the fiscal burden. After all, in the past most of them have shown no concern at all for the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

Case in point: the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which denied Medicare the right to bargain for lower drug prices, locked in overpayments to private insurance companies, and did nothing, nothing at all, to pay for its proposed outlays. How many of these six self-proclaimed defenders of solvency voted no on the crucial procedural vote? One. (Joe Lieberman, to my surprise.) […]

If the Gang of Six really does kill reform, remember their names; they will bear the responsibility for vast, unnecessary suffering over the years to come.

Krugman’s point about the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 is of particular interest, because the votes are illustrative. This was a terrific example of the wrong way to tackle any kind of health care reform — Bush demanded the change and asked Congress to act quickly; Republicans didn’t even try to figure out a way to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in new costs; insurance companies made a bundle; and “centrist” Democrats, hoping to prove how bipartisan they are, went along.

Now that real reform is within reach, however, some of these same senators have suddenly discovered concerns they didn’t have when Bush was doing the asking.

Postscript: This is, by the way, especially interesting when it comes to Roy Blunt of Missouri. In 2003, Blunt not only voted for the Bush Medicare proposal, it was also his job to cajole other House Republicans into voting for it. Six years later, Blunt no longer thinks Medicare should have even been created in the first place.