Congress is back, the Senate Finance Committee appears on the verge of releasing a bill and Obama is set to give a major address Wednesday night. Fall’s hectic start is providing bloggers with plenty of fodder.
First, a new public opinion poll sets the stage. Gallup found that Americans are “no less divided on healthcare reform today” than before the start of the tumultuous August recess:
The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent interprets the poll’s result showing that about a quarter of voters remain undecided about whether they want their member of Congress to vote for the Democratic health reform proposals. Sargent notes:
The persistently high number of undecideds is yet another sign that Obama’s failure to forcefully lay down his bottom line on health care early on may have been a disastrous mistake. On the other hand, it may mean that many want to hear more from the president before making up their minds, perhaps giving Obama a chance to turn things around. It’s another reminder that the stakes of his big speech tomorrow just couldn’t be higher.
Politico’s Glenn Thrush (in a post titled “Not so fired up, not so ready to go”) also comments on the Gallup poll and points out that reform supporters are 20% less likely than opponents to cite their congressperson’s health care vote as a “major factor” for their vote in the 2010 election. Thrush concludes: “Obama, who used to have the most motivated troops in any battle, seems to be leading the French army, circa June ‘40, intensity-wise, into the reform fight.”
Meanwhile, the Senate committee in charge of financing a bill has yet to release their version.
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey looks at reports that the Finance Committee plan, which could finally be released later this week, will include a tax on insurers that sell “Cadillac plans.” Morrissey gives his preferred approach to discourage insurers from offering such plans:
Of course, the better way to proceed in curtailing the overuse of resources is to eliminate third-party payers from most medical care. When consumers have to pay for services and goods directly, pricing mechanisms keep the market from overuse as demand escalates price before it increases supply. … Baucus wants to use the tax code for even more social engineering, making the IRS responsible for enforcing not just the presumed individual mandates that are already part of HR3200, but also to determine what exactly qualifies as a “Cadillac plan” and enforcing compliance. Does anyone in this country truly believe that the IRS plays too small a role in American lives?
Elsewhere, commentators are previewing the president’s address.
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein explains the differing strategies revealed by the timing of President Clinton’s health care address in 1993 and Obama’s speech tomorrow evening:
Clinton’s speech effectively kicked off the beginning of his engagement with Congress. He presented them with his bill two months later. Obama’s speech comes nearer to the end: Four of the five relevant committees have passed their bills, and the Finance Committee is currently circulating its plan. And that’s been the point of Obama’s strategy: Hold the president in reserve until the final stages of the fight, when he can use the power and prestige of his office to push health-care reform over the goal line. That’s very different from Clinton’s approach, which centered the process in the White House for the first year or so, then came to Congress only to be rebuffed.
Keith Hennessey, in a post detailing “incorrect conventional wisdom about health care reform,” which includes “The Obama team learned and avoided the mistakes of HillaryCare.” He says that Obama is repeating one of the Clinton mistakes: “like the Clinton Administration, they tried to restructure one-sixth of the economy in one big bite. This is again proving to be more than the American people are willing to swallow.”
And The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn writes a “where things stand” post reflecting on the last month and predicting that an overhaul bill is “likely to pass:”
Somehow, though, health reform is not dead. Despite all of the setbacks and all of the missed opportunities–despite this train wreck of a month–the situation remains remarkably similar to what it was before the recess. Significant health care legislation is likely to pass, particularly if Obama manages to give a good speech on Wednesday night. And while the possibilities for what that legislation might accomplish have certainly diminished, mostly for worse, it’s not clear how much they have diminished–and to what extent progressives may yet have the power to change that fact.