Hatch takes a walk

HATCH TAKES A WALK…. One of the senators involved in “bipartisan” health care talks has decided to give up.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said he is ending his participation in bipartisan talks aimed at compromise health-care legislation, a setback in President Barack Obama’s call for a measure lawmakers in both political parties might support.

“Right now, with some of the provisions in there, I just can’t do it,” Hatch told reporters in Washington today. The Utah senator said he can’t support a measure that costs as much as $1 trillion, and opposes other provisions he sees as likely to be included in a final measure.

I don’t know whether Hatch is likely to take heat for this, but I think this is exactly the right move. Indeed, it’s common sense — the Senate majority wants to take on a pretty major overhaul of the national health care system. It’s going to be expensive; it’s likely to include some kind of public option; and to make it deficit neutral, it’s going to include some changes to the tax code. Hatch saw the way this is headed and decided to jump off the moving train.

It’s a setback for bipartisanship, and a step forward for rational policy making. Conservative Republicans who don’t want to make sweeping, progressive changes to the system should walk away. Chances are, other conservative Republicans will follow Hatch out the door, and that’s fine, too.

The problem isn’t that Hatch can’t support health care reform, the problem is that policymakers have spent considerable time and energy trying to make the legislation worse in order to make Hatch happy. Negotiations on policy details should be more productive/constructive now that Hatch isn’t at the table.

The parties, after all, are supposed to disagree.