WAIT, WASN’T THIS A GOOD WEEK?…. Yesterday, Joe Scarborough, reflecting on the state of the debate over health care reform, said, “This week has been a mess for the Democrats.” NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd agreed, saying the party “decided to take two steps back after they took one step forward.”
I suppose I can understand what Scarborough and Todd are thinking. A handful of Senate “centrists” don’t want there to be public-private competition, and may oppose cloture. In the House, Speaker Pelosi couldn’t get exactly the bill she intended, and had to compromise with some of the less progressive contingents in her caucus.
But to describe the week as “a mess for Democrats” seems to focus far too heavily on the trees, missing the forest altogether. Morgan Weiland explained:
Speaker Pelosi reported out a full House bill, the American Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3962), that achieves a number of key fiscal goals that only this summer many in the media were insisting were out of reach. The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill reduces the deficit by $104 billion over the next decade, and continues to chip away at it in the subsequent decade. Plus it comes in under the magic $900 billion number for the net cost of coverage expansion over 10 years — a cost that is, in CBO’s words, “more than offset.” […]
If anything, all of this adds up to a big step forward — arguably a bigger one than has ever taken to achieve comprehensive health care reform in this country.
Agreed. For the first time ever, major health care reform bills are on the move in the House and Senate. There’s broad agreement within the majority in both chambers, and there’s a growing sense that a major breakthrough on this issue — after more than a half-century of attempts — is all but inevitable.
This week wasn’t a “mess”; it was a milestone.
Paul Krugman called this “the defining moment for health care reform.”
Past efforts to give Americans what citizens of every other advanced nation already have — guaranteed access to essential care — have ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, usually dying in committee without ever making it to a vote.
But this time, broadly similar health-care bills have made it through multiple committees in both houses of Congress. And on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, unveiled the legislation that she will send to the House floor, where it will almost surely pass. It’s not a perfect bill, by a long shot, but it’s a much stronger bill than almost anyone expected to emerge even a few weeks ago. And it would lead to near-universal coverage.
As a result, everyone in the political class — by which I mean politicians, people in the news media, and so on, basically whoever is in a position to influence the final stage of this legislative marathon — now has to make a choice. The seemingly impossible dream of fundamental health reform is just a few steps away from becoming reality, and each player has to decide whether he or she is going to help it across the finish line or stand in its way…. History is about to be made — and everyone has to decide which side they’re on.
The column wasn’t about the punditocracy, but I suspect, as the process unfolds over the next couple of months, they’ll be reflecting quite a bit on why everything is good news for Republicans.