Dems joined yesterday with G.O.P. senators in trying to kill the "public option," the government-run health insurer proposed by Obama and Congressional committees. Two healthcare-reform proposals with the public option included were defeated Tuesday in the key U.S. Senate Finance Committee, with five Dems - including committee chairman Max Baucus - voting against the first of the two. Three Dems voted against the second, enough to defeat it also.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking G.O.P member, explained his opposition to a new government-run insurer. It would be unfair competition for the private insurers, "a predator." Also a Trojan Horse. "“A government plan will ultimately force private insurers out of business.”
Precisely. If that wasn't the idea, that's certainly what would happen over time. Over 10 years, maybe five, most Americans would gravitate to the new government insurer with its more comprehensive coverage, power premiums and deductibles, made possible by the efficiencies of its huge client base. Indeed it's been quite something to watch liberals zealous in support of the public option bite their tongues on that score - of political necessity.
I thought the so-called public option was D.O.A. in March, when Obama became less vigourous in fighting for it. I agree with those who think most Americans still don't know exactly what the public option is.
It's "Medicare for all." And that should have been every proponent's rallying cry. "We're just going to extend the comprehensive coverage that seniors have had since 1965 to everybody." Everybody knows a senior, knows how comprehensive and efficient Medicare is. A no-brainer.
But Canada's universal system is called Medicare, and that's socialism, government control over life and death, plagues of locusts, and Lenin springing back to life. Don't want that. So it's "public option," which takes about 20 minutes to explain.
Yet Americans consistently tell pollsters they want a new government insurer "to keep private insurers honest," as Obama describes it. So there's still a slim chance lawmakers will ultimately do the electorate's bidding and include the public option in the final conference bill between the Senate and House for Obama's signature.
At which point the Statue of Liberty will swivel on her pedestal.
Not that we needed a reminder, but the G.O.P. was again united yesterday, in opposition. And the Dems, also in character, were divided. Divided on a measure so popular over time that it could secure their party's control of Washington for a generation, as Social Security did.
For those compiling lists of History's Missed Opportunities, remember these "Dems" who voted yesterday against a single-payer component in two of the healthcare proposals considered by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday: Max Baucus (Mont.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.). Weep some more, if you're a progressive, after totting up the tiny percentage of America's population represented by those three yoinks.
Can't beat Will Rogers on this one: "I'm not a member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat."
Robert Reich (HuffPost) Monday on why Tuesday public option vote critical.