A reminder on why bipartisanship hasn’t worked

A REMINDER ON WHY BIPARTISANSHIP HASN’T WORKED…. In general, it’s wise not to pay too much attention to every little press release issued by House Republicans about health care, but this one, from the leading GOP member of the House Ways and Means Committee, was illustrative of a larger truth.

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

In response to the JCT letter, Camp said: “This is the ultimate example of the Democrats’ command-and-control style of governing — buy what we tell you or go to jail. It is outrageous and it should be stopped immediately.”

Now, as a factual matter, if Americans ignore the mandate, fail to get coverage, and refuse to pay the penalty, they would be subject to criminal penalties. It’s just how the system tends to work — if you make taxes voluntary, people probably won’t pay them. Camp’s rhetoric is overdramatic, but the notion that taxes are compulsory is not exactly scandalous.

But more to the point, neither is an individual mandate.

I’m reminded of something Lamar Alexander was complaining about the other day. As he sees it, there was no possibility of a bipartisan health bill because the president and his team didn’t do enough GOP outreach. “White House officials don’t want one or don’t know how to do one,” Alexander said.

In reality, the White House went to great lengths to seek a bipartisan bill, but officials “don’t know how to do one” because GOP leaders ended up opposing ideas they support — such as the individual mandate.

Earlier this year, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he recognized the need for the mandate. Mitt Romney and Bill Frist said the same thing. Six current Republican Senators – Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bob Bennett (Utah), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) — are all on record co-sponsoring a reform measure that includes an individual mandate.

Over the summer, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced on Fox News, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.”

And yet, now the exact same idea is part of Nancy Pelosi’s “outrageous” agenda to send Americans to jail.

Remind me again, Lamar Alexander, about how the White House wasn’t interested in a bipartisan deal.