After reading Volsky and Cohn on the Bipartisan Policy Council health reform plan put together by former Majority Leaders Howard Baker (R-TN), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Bob Dole (R-KS) and George Mitchell (D-ME) I feel, well, kind of “eh” about it. This is not a great plan, but it would be better than the status quo. It’s about what you’d be looking for from a bipartisan compromise, in other words. Personally, I’d like to think that overwhelming progressive electoral victories would result in some juicier fruit than this, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of the Democrats in the Senate appear to not have particularly progressive convictions.
Which I think leads to the question, how bipartisan is this really? Howard Baker and Bob Dole are nice, but how about some Republicans currently serving in the United States Senate? Are Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Chuck Grassley and Judd Gregg and Richard Burr and Richard Lugar and George Voinovich interested in supporting something like this? If so, that could be a very positive development and I could see making the case for the idea that it would be smart for progressives to trim our hopes in pursuit of a strong bipartisan majority. But I have to say that I’m extremely wary of a “Lucy and the football” situation here. The political consensus seems to me to be that Dole and Newt Gingrich scored a huge political coup in 1994 by killing Bill Clinton’s health care initiative and, thus, that the most likely political road to recovery is to kill Obama’s hopes for health reform and thus deal a “major defeat” to the administration. If that’s what Republicans are thinking, then I’d hate to see progressive proposals just watered-down for new reason. Ever since the election, various Republicans have been holding out the prospect of bipartisanship as the reason to do this or that — to drop a public option, to eschew the reconciliation process, etc. — but you haven’t seen any Republicans actually commit themselves to voting for any of these more moderate alternatives.