Counting on success

COUNTING ON SUCCESS…. The fate of health care reform is still very much in doubt. But as far as the Obama administration is concerned, officials aren’t just expecting legislation to eventually pass, they’re literally counting on it.

President Obama says he has not given up on major health care legislation, and his new budget backs him up. The $3.8 trillion budget released by the White House on Monday includes $150 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years on the presumption that a health care bill will be adopted.

As a result, it seems that the budget reflects multiple layers of optimism. First, it presumes that despite the bleak outlook at the moment, Democrats will figure out a way to get the legislation approved over fierce Republican opposition. Then, it presumes that the bill will truly reduce future deficits.

In a statement Monday night, Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, said: “Hidden clue in budget documents — health care reform is alive.”

That the administration actually assumes that reform will come together in the end is at least a little encouraging.

Slightly less heartening was something President Obama said yesterday afternoon, responding to questions submitted to the public via YouTube. The very first question was about health care reform, and the president said, “It is my greatest hope that we can get this done, not just a year from now but soon.” After noting the benefits that would come with reform, Obama added:

“[T]he way the rules work in the United States Senate, you’ve got to have 60 votes for everything. After the special election in Massachusetts, we now only have 59. We are calling on our Republican colleagues to get behind a serious health reform bill, one that actually provides not only the insurance reforms for people who do have health insurance, but also the coverage for folks who don’t. My hope is that they accept that invitation and that they work with us together over the next several weeks to get it done.”

The problem with this is it’s putting the burden in the wrong place. If the White House believes reform is dependent on garnering at least some Republican support in the Senate, then reform is going to die. There are different approaches to getting this done, but the one that counts on GOP votes is the most likely to fail.

There’s a better way — the House passes the already-approved Senate bill, the Senate agrees to improvements through reconciliation. Americans can “call on Republicans to get behind a serious health reform bill,” but the call has been and will be ignored.