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House Leadership Is Not The Problem

On MSNBC just now, Andrea Mitchell just asked Dan Balz whether President Obama had deferred too much to the House Democratic leadership. In the process, she cited David Brooks, whose column today makes that very case. I'll have more to say on this later--when I'm not on deadline for a print article--but I want to say something quickly, while this new conventional wisdom seems to be gelling.

The House bill could have done more to control costs; its levy on businesses is pretty high. But, overall, it's a strong bill. It would make sure anybody could get coverage regardless of income or pre-existing conditions, guarantee that good benefits come with that coverage, eliminate a ton of wasteful spending, and make at least some strides (if not enough) towards reducing the cost of medical care.

It's an expensive bill, yes, but that's because accomplishing these things are expensive. To its credit, the House recognizes that and has proposed a significant new revenue measure--an income tax on the very wealthy--to pay for it. Like my colleague John Judis, I believe it's an eminently defensible idea.

So why is a bill stuck? For starters, "stuck" is an exaggeration. Two committees have already passed it; a third, the Energy and Commerce Committee, is looking at it now. And while it's true the resistance of moderate Democrats is holding up that vote, surely some responsibility for that lies with the moderates.

Politico this morning published a list of their demands. It included more aggressive efforts to control costs, which is great. But it also included cuts to the subsidies that would help people afford insurance, which is the opposite of great.

I suspect the House leadership will discuss the former request, but not the latter. Nor should they. They are committed to passing a bill that makes sure everybody can get affordable insurance. They've written a bill that, although not perfect, accomplishes that. That is a good thing.

--Jonathan Cohn