The Senate Finance Committee is starting its markup hearings this morning. At the moment, Republican Orrin Hatch is speaking--and making the same point fellow Republican Charles Grassley did. The reason bipartisanship broke down, Hatch says, is that Obama rushed the process. If only he'd given the two parties more time to work out a deal, there'd be a bill with strong support from both parties.
Um, no. We've been engaged in a serious debate about health policy since the very first days of the 2008 presidential campaign; Congress has been talking about it since last summer. But, in a sense, the debate over health care reform stretches back much farther than that--to the debate over the Clinton health care plan, in 1993 and 1994, and beyond. The issues are familiar. So are the policy options. More debate won't mean more substantive enlightment. It will simply mean more time. The only thing bound to change is the underlying political environment--which, perhaps, is precisely what Grassley and Hatch want.
Hatch says, "the desire for reform is universal." But when you look at the positions Republicans have taken--and the amendments they've proposed--it's hard to take that seriously. They've consistently argued to scale back the plan, so that working class people wouldn't get the assistance they needed to buy insurance. They've argued for giving insurers far more leeway, quite possibly enough to effectively keep out people with serious medical conditions. With the apparent exception of Olympia Snowe, they're simply not willing to support the regulations and, more imoprtant, the public spending necessary to make sure every American can get health insurance.
That's their prerogative, of course. But they shouldn't pretend that they could have come to an agreement with the Democrats, if only there had been more time.
By the way, if you want the blow-by-blow, I'm sending out short dispatches on my twitter account: @jcohntnr.
Update: Wonk Room has a list of Republican amendments to the Finance bill that would weaken its affordability provisions.