Nothing good happens in ‘pause mode’

NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS IN ‘PAUSE MODE’…. The NYT reports today on the president and his team planning ahead for the rest of the year. On the matter where things stand with regard to health care reform, the report was very discouraging.

It remains an open question how much new legislation will pass Congress, but the coming months will help frame the campaigns. While some form of financial regulation and job creation measures may pass, Obama aides said, the larger initiatives like health care, a cap on carbon emissions and an immigration overhaul may have to wait, even though the White House denies trimming its ambitions. […]

The administration is still exploring options with Congressional leaders to salvage a wide-reaching health care bill, but one adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy said, “I think they’re coming to the realization that we may be in a pause mode.”

“Pause mode” is not a good place to be. Nothing happens in “pause mode.” There is no progress is “pause mode.” No one finds real, meaningful change in “pause mode.”

This is one of those times when the fierce urgency of now would be awfully helpful.

Now, I didn’t hear the context of the quote — maybe “pause mode” refers to the White House’s short-term interests in focusing on the State of the Union address. Maybe “pause mode” ends later this week if/when the president brings the principals together to wrap up a deal.

But that’s probably just wishful thinking. I interpret “pause mode” to more likely mean, “Let’s kick this down the road a couple of months and see if the polls look any different.”

This would be a terrible mistake. Dragging out the process, when it can be resolved with one, simple roll-call vote in the House, is the exact opposite of what’s needed right now.

Giving opponents of reform more time to undermine public support and trash necessary legislation hasn’t worked up until now; it’s unlikely to work while policymakers are in “pause mode.”

Ideally, the president and his team would be working the phones, facilitating a deal. If, however, the White House is going to remain detached — and for all I know, congressional leaders may have specifically asked Obama to let them work this out themselves — that doesn’t mean lawmakers can’t do their job.

Congress is its own branch, with its own leaders. It’s in members’ interests to get this done. Congress should realize what needs to be done — whether it gets instructions from the White House or not should be irrelevant.