obama health care, obama health care gop, obama health care reform
Alex Brandon/AP
President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting on health care, Wednesday, July 1, 2009, at the
Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va.

Obama Threatens Partisan Reform as Health Care Rift Widens

August 07, 2009 01:30 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Frustrated by delays and an increasingly hostile GOP, Obama and Democratic congress members are threatening to scrap bipartisanship for the sake of health care reform. Why are the two sides unable to reconcile?

As Time Flies, Bipartisanship May Fly Out the Window

President Obama promised this week that “we will pass reform by the end of this year because the American people need it,” The Associated Press reported.

Although he “would prefer Republicans working with us,” his emphasis on urgency may force him to leave out the GOP, which has repeatedly expressed concern about rushing the legislation. On the same day that Obama spoke, Senator Mike Enzi, a key Republican, objected to some prized Democratic provisions and warned against “trying to impose quickness,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

In light of such setbacks, Obama reflected that “sometime in September we’re going to have to make an assessment” about Democratic cooperation with the GOP.

Last week, David Herszenhorn of The New York Times noted this new message of speed over conciliation, reporting that even Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, who has led the bipartisan “Gang of Six” effort on reform, has set a deadline of Sept. 15 for a bill, regardless of Republican support. Nevertheless, The Washington Post reported that his bipartisan bill has recently progressed slightly, and Obama met with the group on Thursday.

Rundown on the Issues

In the Senate Finance Committee, according to The Washington Post, the bipartisan negotiations now focus on detailed reform of Medicare and Medicaid, subsidies and the importance of a public option.

As this complex debate shifts from Capitol Hill to town halls, however, lawmakers have had to simplify it for public consumption, boiling these backroom issues down to a more digestible battle over costs and governmental power.

The GOP insists that democrats simply do not have the money to pay for their plans, and that any contribution to the deficit would be disastrous during the recession. Obama maintains that reform will be deficit-neutral, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has expressed doubt that current plans could accomplish that, according to an Associated Press “Fact Check” of reform debate distortions. Democrats also continue to spar over how to finance reform, with more fiscally conservative Democrats and Republicans objecting to the House’s plan to raise the income taxes of the rich.

Republicans ideologically oppose the Democratic priority of a public option, a government-run insurance plan that would compete against the private insurers. Democratic supporters praise it as an essential tool to lower costs and indirectly regulate the insurance companies, but Senator Charles Grassley, one of three Republicans in the bipartisan “Gang of Six,” has called the public option the “first step” to nationalized health care, according to CBS News.

More broadly, Republicans fear any expansion of federal power. Minority Leader John Boehner claimed that the House plan’s provision for living wills “may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia,” according to The Associated Press. This claim, along with others debunked or qualified by the AP, appears more to drive the public debate, rather than the private Gang of Six negotiations.

Opinion & Analysis: The blame game

The health care dispute has largely devolved into a debate about the debate, with both sides accusing the other of fear mongering.

Philip Rucker and Dan Eggen of The Washington Post reported that “hectoring protesters,” who shout down reform supporters and even issue violent threats at Democratic town halls, have themselves become a “flash point” in the debate over reform. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC has labeled the protesters a “professionally-organized, fake grassroots rent-a-mob” orchestrated by the GOP and interest groups to prevent an honest discussion about reform. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer later echoed this sentiment, calling the protests an “organized effort” of “very rabid people.”

Republicans view these accusations as an attempt to silence democracy. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele insisted in a fundraising letter that Democrats are “using this fear-and-smear tactic to silence ANY American who disagrees with their risky scheme,” according to The Washington Post.

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