How Worried Should You Be About Health Reform?

For a poll that’s bad news for Barack Obama and his agenda, the latest Washington Post poll contains some pretty good news for Barack Obama and his agenda:

If I’m in White House Legislative Affairs and I’m talking to a nervous member of congress, I’m showing them that chart and arguing that the progressive president is more popular than the somewhat dawdling congressional Democrats and way more popular than the obstructionist Republicans. Under the circumstances, giving in to the obstructionists by dawdling isn’t going to help anyone. Obviously, the higher the unemployment rate rises, the edgier the national mood becomes, but electoral politics is a zero-sum competition that Democrats are winning handily.

The question of whether or not the push for health care reform will succeeds depends, as it did in 1993–94 and it always has, on the fairly simple question “do moderate Democrats want universal health care?” Insofar as they do, there’s nothing stopping them from making it happen. If they want to throw tough cost-cutting measures into the mix, plenty of such measures are on the shelf ready to be picked up. And if they want to avoid that instead fund a relatively expensive bill through higher taxes, plenty of revenue measures are also on the shelf ready to be picked up. But you have to actually want a bill to pass. If you want a bill to pass, then passing one isn’t brain surgery. But it seems to me throughout this process that a lot of folks have been acting like they actually don’t want a bill to pass, but they don’t want to say that either, so they’re kind of throwing sand in the works.

To me, though, nothing’s actually changed. I’ve been skeptical for a long time that a push for major health reform in 2009 was the best idea. But it’s the strategy progressives committed themselves to. And obviously a premise of that strategy is the idea that moderate Democrats do, in fact, want a health reform bill to pass. Do they? That’s what we’ll find out over the next few months.