Delays for delays’ sake

DELAYS FOR DELAYS’ SAKE…. In July, after considerable debate and discussion, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said health care reform advocates were going far too fast. The process, she said, had to be slowed down considerably.

She said the same thing in August. And September. As we approach November, and reform seems to be gathering some momentum, Snowe keeps going for the brakes.

Centrist Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) suggested that Congress may not vote on healthcare legislation before lawmakers leave Washington for Christmas.

Democratic leaders are pushing to complete healthcare reform legislation before year’s end but key issues in the legislation have yet to be hashed out, such as the inclusion of a controversial public health insurance option.

Democrats have courted Snowe for her support on the bill. She could become a crucial vote should Senate Democrats fail to attract the 60 votes necessary on their side to invoke cloture.

“Well, Christmas might be too soon,” Snowe told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt in an interview that will air throughout the weekend.

Now, Snowe hasn’t quite gotten around to explaining why the end of the calendar year may be “too soon.” Instead, she’s urged policymakers to give reform the “thought it needs and requires.” Snowe added, “[T]hat’s why I’ve tried to slow the process down.”

That’s pretty vague, to the point that it doesn’t seem to actually mean anything. Indeed, Snowe has no idea what’s going to happen between now and the end of the December — none of us do — but she’s still convinced, no matter how much progress has been made and how strong the support, that “Christmas might be too soon.” Why? She just does.

Delays for delays’ sake aren’t exactly a recipe for serious policymaking. Congress and the White House have been debating health care reform for the better part of the year. It was debated last year during the presidential campaign. It was debated the year before during the presidential primaries. It was debated at length during the Clinton reform effort, which followed previous debates during previous presidents’ efforts.

America has been debating health care reform, off and on, since the days of Harry Truman. Olympia Snowe can demand more delays, and for all I know, given her influence right now, she’ll get them. But health care reform, by most reasonable measures, has already received the “thought it needs and requires.” It’s time for responsible policymakers to start making decisions, not putting them off until some arbitrary point in the new year.

Dragging this out for the sake of dragging this out seems wildly unnecessary, and more than a little counter-productive.