The news that President Barack Obama is proposing a two-year discretionary spending freeze has triggered chatter about issues of federal spending and reducing the deficit, that then, of course, dovetails back to health reform.
For instance, Daniel J. Mitchell on Cato@Liberty writes that some critics “will correctly note that this is like going on a drunken binge in Vegas and then temporarily joining Alcoholics Anonymous.” Others point out that because entitlement programs like Medicare are exempt, the plan doesn’t matter much. But he contends that “even a partial freeze would be a semi-meaningful achievement.”
Igor Volsky also writes about the proposal for the Wonk Room noting the endorsement of Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., during an appearance today on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. But Bayh also criticized the president for spending too much time on health reform instead of the deficit. Volsky takes exception with Bayh’s either-or framework. “Bayh is wrong to suggest that health care reform is antithetical to reducing the nation’s $1.4 trillion deficit. Health care reform would compliment the administration’s new focus on deficit reduction by slowing the fastest growing part of the deficit.”
And that endorsement for reform brings us back to the bloggers’ continuing efforts to handicap the prospects of legislation.
David M. Herszenhorn set the tone today when he reported on the New York Times Prescriptions blog that the White House and congressional Democrats “are considering a hardball procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation to adopt a health measure, despite losing their 60-seat super majority in the Senate.” The blogosphere was quick to react (again) to this idea — with cyber-reflections touching on the intraparty squabbling about how or whether to proceed, as noted by the New York Times. One point of general agreement, though, appears to be that whatever happens next, it will not be easy.
University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack on The Treatment blog urges the House to pass the Senate bill and the fix its “significant shortcomings through the reconciliation process.” But he also offers a reality check. “Virtually every health supporter I know supports the general strategy” but “the issue bears discomfiting similarities to the Arab-Israeli dispute. The contours of the ultimate solution seem relatively straightforward. The tactical roadmap is much more obscure.”
Robert Leszewski offers an entirely different take. He says that the idea of using reconciliation is “as dead as the original House and Senate health care bills.” His recipe: First focusing on tax credits for small businesses and then trying to help the individual market. “Add to that a modest Medicaid expansion, the albeit tepid cost containment parts of the current bills such as the pilot programs and giving CMS more authority to implement them, modest insurance reforms like ending rescission and funding for high risk pools, proving good faith with Republicans by including tort reform, and we have a bipartisan down payment on health reform.”
And Jonathan Cohn, also on The Treatment, points out that health reform could get a second wind: “It’s going to take heroic political efforts, given the number of Democrats suddenly skittish about supporting such a bill. And it’s not clear whether the Hill’s strongest reform advocates are getting the kind of political help they say they need from the White House.”