October 31, 2009

Morgan Weiland at Media Matters summed up this segment nicely--Memo to the media: This has been a great week for health reform:

Discussing health care reform today on Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough and NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd agreed that "[t]his week has been a mess for the Democrats." Todd added that "it does seem like they decided to take two steps back after they took one step forward because now they got a trillion dollar bill in the House, which is about $150 billion more than they said, than the President said that he wanted, and now they've got to have this back and forth and figure out how to get six to 10 moderate Democrats and Olympia Snowe on board."

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree that the past week was "a mess for the Democrats." Speaker Pelosi reported out a full House bill, the American Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3962), that achieves a number of key fiscal goals that only this summer many in the media were insisting were out of reach. The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill reduces the deficit by $104 billion over the next decade, and continues to chip away at it in the subsequent decade. Plus it comes in under the magic $900 billion number for the net cost of coverage expansion over 10 years -- a cost that is, in CBO's words, "more than offset." And these achievements are doubly important because they satisfy President Obama's must-have requirement that reform "[w]on't add a dime to the deficit."

If anything, all of this adds up to a big step forward -- arguably a bigger one than has ever taken to achieve comprehensive health care reform in this country.

Not in the Villagers on Morning Joe's world though. In their view it's just terrible that the Democrats are breaking with the White House and their obsession with bipartisanship and catering to Olympia Snowe and her love of the trigger. They're more worried about advancing the meme that the Democrats are in disarray and everything is smelling like roses for the Republicans.

Of course we’re not going to get any sort of substantive debate about what’s actually in these bills and what those changes might mean to the American public. No, we get horse race coverage and meaningless talking points churned out as Chuck Todd whines about being criticized for the way they're covering the issue.

They also never talk about what it would mean if Harry Reid forces an actual filibuster--if he would make any of these Senators who are opposed to the bill have to stand up and debate until they dropped. Later in the segment Sheldon Whitehouse was asked if this could still be dragging along as it got close to the holiday break and would Harry Reid consider keeping all of them there instead of going home. He said this could very well go into the holidays or even the beginning of next year.

I wonder how that would play out? Tell them if they want to filibuster the bill, they're welcome to do it all week Christmas week, and let's carry it into New Years week for good measure. If Reid would grow a spine and actually do that I think I'd consider it a holiday gift, not that it's going to happen. It seems Reid and the media are more than content to pretend that Reid's silent filibuster is the norm. What does anyone think would have happened to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 if we'd had a Harry Reid around back then to deal with the likes of Strom Thurmond?

I'll gladly reserve judgement as I would expect everyone will as well on whether we should be clamoring for that or not after we see what makes it to the floor for a final vote. If they go back to either opt-in or Snowe's trigger I don't see how that's a step towards reforming the current system. The other compromises are bad enough already away from single-payer, which is what we should have.

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