Thursday, October 1, 2009

White House Preparing A "Secret Plan" to Save Us From Meaningful Health Care Reform

I've always thought that if this were up to Obama and Obama alone, we'd have a far better health care bill, and one that includes the public option. I had no real reason to believe this other than the fact I like Obama, and think he was telling me the truth most of the time when he ran for office.

Well apparently in the real world the Administration is crafting it's own health care plan, and unlike my fantasy, it sounds like a pretty awful idea:

The White House has been secretly drafting its own health care legislation that it may unveil at some point during the debate if officials believe it would help secure passage of a bill, according to sources familiar with the effort.

Sources differed on how far the process has gotten, with some saying a bill is basically finished and others saying they are aware only of a partially completed effort. White House officials, though they know their preferences, also appear to be constructing different options that could be thrown together depending on how the legislation is shaping up in Congress.

But all sources knowledgeable about the effort agreed the measure includes significant detail and possibly even some legislative language that could ensure the bill is ready to go the moment it is needed.

“They are getting ready for a backup,” said one veteran observer of health care debates who was knowledgeable about the effort. “It will be parachuted in if necessary.”

The White House measure appears designed to entice moderate Democrats and perhaps even Republicans into supporting a health care overhaul if legislative efforts in Congress fail or if they move too far to the left. Sources said one possibility would be to invoke the measure if the Senate cannot rally 60 votes to break a filibuster. Another option may be to present details of what the White House wants during a conference between the House and the Senate.

Gee, if there's anything the health care debate needed, it's more input from moderate Democrats and Republicans! I can't wait to see what bill the White House has crafted to please them!

Jane Hamsher has few thoughts as to why they might be floating such a sucky alternative:

Well, consider who reads Roll Call. Aside from Kagro and Kos, I don't know too many bloggers who do. It's a subscription-based publication that lobbyists and Capitol Hill insiders pay to read. Witness the editorial on unfair "lobbyist intimidation" on June 17, when Baucus's staff told lobbyists that if they met with Republicans, it would be "viewed as a hostile act," and they would lose their seat at the negotiating table. It was Tom DeLay's K-Street project in reverse, written for an audience who thinks defending lobbyists' rights is critically important.

The Finance Committee bill transcribes the details of the deals that the White House and Baucus negotiated with all the health care industry stakeholders. So if the Baucus bill gets stalled, all those stakeholders like PhRMA, AHIP, the hospitals, the AMA, the device manufacturers, etc., etc., start to get nervous. They've plunked a bunch of good money down on advertising in exchange for their deals (just ask Tom Carper), and the last thing the White House wants is for them to start stepping out with the GOP.

Remember what happened the last time Billy Tauzin thought the White House was going back on the PhRMA deal? He yanked their chain in the pages of the New York Times and showed he was totally willing to air their dirty laundry if they tried to back out. The White House was forced to send Jim Messina into the shredder to verify it.

Shortly thereafter, John Boehner wrote a letter to Tauzin that read like something from a jilted boyfriend. Tauzin (and other stakeholders, and their money) will have many, many suitors should these deals start looking endangered. Ergo, leaking a story to a publication behind a firewall read by lobbyists assures them that if Baucus can't deliver a bill that memorializes the deals, the White House is willing to step in and do it for him.

While they may or may not be writing their own bill, they need to reassure health care industry stake holders that those deals will be honored in the final bill, even if Baucus can't get them through is committee. Because the last thing the White House needs right now is stakeholders leaking embarrassing documents because they're getting hinky at the thought that their deals might go south.

There's no need for the White House to "parachute in" and save anything. There are enough votes to pass a good heath care bill with a public option, if that is what Administration wants. If they want a bill that preserves the concessions made in all those backroom deals, well then they may have to parachute and save us from good health reform. It's hard to think of a dumber strategy for both policy and electoral prospects, but based on the tactics we've seen from the white house in the health care debate, I can't say I'd be surprised.

1 comment:

  1. honestly, i hate this. if all this bill brings to the table is tort reform, Americans will have lost their last ability to fight this crushing healthcare system. and, it will have been for nothing.