Two New Congressional Obstacles To Health Care Reform

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 15, 2009

One of these obstacles may only be kinda inconvenient. The other one, is very inconvenient.

The kinda inconvenient obstacle is in the form of Representative John Murtha, who is urging the political system to slow down significantly in its push for health care reform:

A bill to overhaul the nation’s ailing health-care system may not pass until January or later, Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania said Friday.

His comment to CNN affiliate WJPA differed from President Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Congress will pass a health care bill by the end of 2009.

Speaking in Bentleyville, Pennsylvania, Murtha said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted a health-care bill passed before the current August recess.

“She said we’re going to have it before we left,” Murtha said. “We said, ‘No, no, we want some time to think about this.’ We’re taking some time to make sure it’s done right. I don’t know that we’ll get something done before January, and even then we may not get it done. We’re going to do it right when it’s finally done.”

Murtha is very close to Speaker Pelosi–she backed him (unsuccessfully) for Majority Leader over Steny Hoyer when the Democrats took Congress back in 2006–so his comments about the timeline for enacting health care reform legislation have more than a little weight, since he could be seen as reflecting the concerns of the House Democratic leadership in general. Of course, it is possible to overcome Murtha’s concerns–either by assuaging them or by pushing him aside–but those interested in the expeditious passage of health care reform legislation can’t be happy with what he is saying.

The very inconvenient obstacle is in the form of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, who says . . . well . . . read it for yourself:

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. presented his cooperative health care proposal here Thursday and told an audience of 100 that he would not vote for a government-run health care program.

Conrad stopped in Carrington as part of his a statewide tour touting the Senate Finance Committee’s cooperative health care proposal.

The proposal has received bipartisan support for several reasons, he said. The cooperative would offer a non-profit insurance option to compete with private health care. It would not be government run, he said.

Individuals, families and small business owners could stick with their current provider, or they could opt for the cooperative plan.

To say the least, the liberal base is really not going to like this. I watched Howard Dean address Netroots Nation on the subject of health care reform last night (yes, I am enough of a policy wonk to be able to tolerate listening to Howard Dean; to be fair, when he is discussing policy, and not just focusing his attention on his myopic belief that Republicans are stupid and venal, Dean actually can be somewhat interesting to listen to), and he made it clear that as far as he was concerned–and the liberal base listening to his speech concurred in this–cooperatives are non-starters, because cooperatives were tried before, but were swallowed up and destroyed by private insurance companies. It may be that the Obama Administration and Congress will settle on cooperatives as a way to attract moderate Republican support–there remains the concern that cooperatives might eventually be taken over by government in the same way that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were, so conservatives and libertarians probably won’t like this plan (I know that I have my severe reservations about it)–but if cooperatives are put in place of a government option, liberals will consider it a betrayal. And rightly so.

While I am offering something resembling praise to Howard Dean, I guess I should point out that I think he was right to state at Netroots Nation that Democrats should have started with advocating the implementation of a single-payer system as their starting point in the debate over health care reform. Then, perhaps, the political system and the public at large would consider the public option to be a compromise policy position. Now, instead, the public option is considered the emphatically liberal position, single-payer is off the table (save a courtesy vote afforded to liberals concerning H.R. 676, which everyone knows will not pass), and cooperatives are being pushed as the compromise policy position. For liberals, this has to be devastating, especially given the likelihood that their own tactical blunder in not pushing for a single-payer system led to this state of affairs.

  • Doc3

    These Congressmen have been given some time to ponder. “Let's see, follow Pelosi and Obama and rubber stamp another bloated costly bill that no one has read or understands, or try and be re-elected in 2010″ If may be too late for them as they are already tainted as Spendocrats. As the tsunami of taxes, debt and inflation hit their ability to be re-elected is going to be compromised.

    Obamacare has flat lined.

    Here is an idea. How about cleaning up Medicate as step one. Cut out the estimated 12 billion a year in fraud and then get back to us.

  • bandwagon

    Interestingly, Murtha is a co-sponsor of H.R. 676. Let them wait. Forget this heap of poo the Senate is pushing.

  • JamesHovland

    Let the filibuster run it's course. If our Democratic majority is as worthless as Conrad makes them out to be, there is no reason to not keep them tied up in an endless debate. Heath Care reform CAN wait until 2010 if that's what it takes, and these Senators can campaign for re-election from the floor. Let the filibuster expose all who enable it for the charlatans they are. We need NAMES! Conrad doesn't get re-elected. Who else? It's time to educate our government about “by the people” accountability.

  • JamesHovland

    Let the filibuster run it's course. If our Democratic majority is as worthless as Conrad makes them out to be, there is no reason to not keep them tied up in an endless debate. Heath Care reform CAN wait until 2010 if that's what it takes, and these Senators can campaign for re-election from the floor. Let the filibuster expose all who enable it for the charlatans they are. We need NAMES! Conrad doesn't get re-elected. Who else? It's time to educate our government about “by the people” accountability.

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