No way to negotiate

NO WAY TO NEGOTIATE…. For all the talk about reaching some kind of bipartisan consensus on health care reform, and all the concessions Democratic lawmakers are willing to make to keep the GOP at the negotiating table, let’s not forget that many Republicans just don’t want health care reform. Brian Beutler reports:

[T]here’s no evidence that potential Republican support for the idea of a co-operative health care system will translate into Republican support for the broader reform bill they’re attached to. […]

[Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R)] is the ranking member of the Senate HELP committee, and he’s been a harsh critic of the health care bill that’s come out of that panel. I talked to his spokesman this evening, who said … Enzi supports the Finance Committee’s process, which he said has been more transparent and bipartisan in spirit. He says the co-op proposal sounds promising, but he needs to learn more about it before he offers his full support to the provision.

But, crucially, even if he does decide that co-ops are a great policy idea, in no uncertain terms, [Enzi] withholds judgment on the greater bill. This is a common position in the GOP, and, frankly, a common legislative tactic in general. It’s not necessarily a wink and a nod toward a ‘no’ vote, but it raises concerns among Democrats — or at least it should — that Republicans might try to weaken the bill only to turn around and vote against it.

That’s not only right, it’s a critically important point that often goes overlooked.

Democrats are willing to weaken their own bill in the hopes of winning support from a discredited minority that not only has an interest in seeing the reform effort fail, but which is almost certain to vote against the final bill, no matter what’s in it.

This isn’t an effective way to negotiate — or to govern.

Indeed, most of the focus over the last couple of weeks has been about the public option, and the fact that Republicans consider it a deal-breaker. It is, we’ve been told, the one line the GOP minority cannot cross. But looking at the big picture, Republicans haven’t said, “We can support the rest of the reform agenda, outside of a public plan.” In fact, Republicans haven’t actually endorsed anything in the reform agenda at all.

The bill the Senate Finance Committee’s written, which has no public plan but does have a lot of virtues, provides an important test. Will Republicans actually flock to support the bill? If they will, then that’s something worth thinking about. A public plan is important, but if you could get leading Republicans to sign on to the idea of tough new regulations on insurers, on an expansion of Medicaid, on subsidies to ensure that insurance is affordable for everyone, and on higher taxes to pay for the whole thing that would be no small achievement. You’d have to think seriously about whether it isn’t worth cutting a deal. But thus far, for all the whining about the public plan, I’m not seeing the evidence that they’re actually willing to embrace the rest of the health reform agenda, either. In which case, you may as well go forward with a robust public plan.

Sounds like a no-brainer.