Death By Hissy Fits Continues

A month ago I wrote about how Grassley and the rest of the Republican party were trying to kill reform one childish hissy fit at a time. It has proven surprisingly successful, since Chairman Baucus has been rewarding them with surrender each time.

The pattern has continued with Rep. Wilson's rude outburst being rewarded with a provision to bar illegal immigrants from buying health insurance even if they are willing to fully pay for it. This policy is just not cruel and expensive (we all end up paying for illegal immigrants going to emergency rooms because we don't allow them to pay for their own care by buying health insurance), but it is also terrible political optics. Working class Americans will be forced to buy insurance or pay huge fines but illegal immigrants will not.

With a Finance Committee bill expected tomorrow, Senator Grassley and Enzi have moved the goal post again. The New York Time is reporting that Grassley is now opposing an individual mandate that he has previously supported for months,
The committee documents show that Mr. Grassley has reservations about this approach. He believes that “the individual responsibility to have health coverage should be reconsidered and replaced with a reinsurance policy to ensure that affordable health coverage is available to everyone in a voluntary system, with a lower overall cost for the package,” one document says.
Hoping to capitalize on Obama's and Baucus' willingness to give in on anything in order to pass something labeled “health care reform,” the AHIP is going for the double jackpot. No sooner than did prominent Democrats signal they might forgo their only idea which could rein in health insurance company profits (a strong public option), the AHIP switched to fighting to protect their favorite cash cow, Medicare Advantage. Our current Medicare Advantage program may have the dubious distinction of being the biggest and most wasteful form of corporate welfare in the country.

Even with all but maybe two Republican senators likely to oppose Baucus' bill, he has decided to still include all the terrible compromises he made to win their support. Grassley has proven himself to be maybe the greatest negotiator in Senate history. He convinced Democrats to waste valuable months and adopt many ill-conceived compromises, without needing to risk voting for the final product.

What is at stake here is even more important than health care reform. If Obama and the Democrats allow themselves to be rolled, they will never be feared or respected by congressional Republicans or the special interest groups. Obama should demand that 48 hours after the Baucus' bill is released that a majority of Senate Republicans publicly endorse it, or it will be revamped to reflect his original uncompromised proposal.

Negotiation requires both carrots and sticks. If Democrats pass a bill containing all the awful Republican demands with almost zero Republican support, they will doom any hope of future good faith dealing and real political discourse. The Republicans and special interests will know that if they throw a loud enough hissy fit Democrats will accept their demands without Republicans needing to risk anything by voting for compromise. Giving in now assures “death panels” and “you lie” will become the modis operandi of the Republicans party. If Obama does not stand up to declare a willingness to pass a good, Democrat-only bill, it is going to be dark, loud, shrill, and depressing next three years.

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