Attempts to get bipartisan support for health care reform were always doomed—doomed from the very beginning. Part of that is because Republicans had no political reason to help Democrats achieve one of the planks of their party platform. The idea that delivering on quality health care reform would help cement Democrats as defenders of the middle class was probably also in play. But I think the main reason that bipartisan health care reform was inherently doomed is much simpler. The bill has new taxes, and that violates a core Republican ideal.
In case Democrats have not seen the important part of the GOP platform that has come to define the modern Republican party, let me restate it:
Any new tax is inherently bad from the Republican perspective. This is nothing new, and should not come as surprise to Democrats. Almost any Republican who faces a contested primary is basically forced by political necessity to sign the “taxpayer protection pledge.” During Obama's State of the Union address, Republicans did not even clap for Obama’s plan to tax big banks to recover the American taxpayers’ money spent propping up the financial institutions using TARP. If Republicans are not going to support a tax on banks to get back TARP money, they are not going to support any new taxes.
The health care proposal from Obama contains new taxes, and, therefore, is unacceptable to Republicans. There are taxes on the industries, taxes on people making over $250,000, and a new excise tax on insurance benefits. New taxes are rarely popular, hence the success of Republicans’ TAXES BAD!!! platform.
Getting broad Republican support would definitely make selling new taxes much easier. Especially the politically toxic excise tax Obama insists must be part of the bill--despite once campaigning against it, and despite its destroying popular support for health care reform and endangering passage of the bill. By the same token, it would be easier to sell snowshoes in Miami if the city started getting an average of a hundred inches of snow each winter, but that is not going to happen, either. Republicans are not going to support tax increases to help Democrats achieve a victory.
The health care bill contain new taxes. Republicans believe TAXES BAD!!!, so Republicans would never support this bill. Maybe if a single person in Obama’s team of “political experts” had understood this most basic of political realities, health care reform would have been passed months ago using reconciliation--instead of wasting time chasing the futile hope of bipartisanship.