Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We all fail if health care reform fails

Reading first Jonathan's Cohn's account of the uphill struggle to muster enough House Democrats to pass the Senate health care bill with a reconciliation fix, and then Amy Sullivan analysis of how the fragile majoirty that passed the House bill may founder over abortion, I heard myself mouthing former Counterterroism chief Richard Clark's words at the 9/11 Commission hearings: "your government failed you...I failed you."

If Congress does not pass a comprehensive health care reform bill this year, that will constitute a massive collective failure in which we all share.

Republicans will have failed in their callous disregard for the plight of tens of millions of uninsured and tens more millions underinsured Americans,and in their willingness to place political gain ahead of the welfare of the people they are elected to serve. They will have failed in their success at scuttling  the country's best hope of bending the health care cost curve and thus laying the basis for a sustainable fiscal future.

Progressive activists will have failed in their refusal to recognize that for all its concessions to industry and to the spending inhibitions of the most conservative senators in the Democratic caucus, the bill that passed the Senate maintains the capacity to transform our health care system vastly for the better. They will have failed to recognize that the bill's limitations were imposed by the constraints of the Constitution and the filibuster and the U.S. electorate, that it could not be more sweeping than the most conservative Democrats would allow.

Senate Democrats will have failed to recognize that the Republicans were negotiating in bad faith, that a 60-vote majority was inherently fragile and that time was their worst enemy.

House Democrats will have failed to recognize that the Republican Party is their primary political adversary, not Senate Democrats, and that the limitations of the Senate bill were imposed by the structure and customs of the Senate, not by the malice of their Senate colleagues. 

House Democrats who voted for the House bill in November and are now whining in the wake of Massachusetts that they must "accept the dictates" of voters who rejected Democratic candidates in November and March -- rather than doing what they think best for the country, making their case to voters and abiding the consequences -- will have failed as surely as the Republicans to place good of the country ahead of their own perceived politiical interest.

The President will have failed to provide the clear, forceful, leadership his party was audibly crying out for early enough, often enough, loud enough and unequivocally enough.

The American people will have failed to distinguish facts from demagoguery and recognize that Republicans lied nonstop for a year about the bill's provisions and the legislative process. 

As Obama said in his weekly address on Feb 20, "What’s being tested here is not just our ability to solve this one problem, but our ability to solve any problem." 

Let's not fail.

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