Commentary Magazine


ObamaCare Is in a Ditch

The Sunday talk shows were not kind to ObamaCare:

“So we’re in the position of dialing down some of our expectations to get the costs down so that it’s affordable and, most importantly, so that it’s paid for because we can’t go to the point where we are now of not paying for something when we have trillions of dollars of debt,” said [Sen. Chuck] Grassley, R-Iowa.

“And we anticipate paying for it through some savings and Medicare, and from some increases in revenue,” he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she wasn’t certain there are enough votes in the president’s own party to support the proposal.

“I think there’s a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus,” she said.

The overhaul’s chief proponent in the Senate, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, urged patience as lawmakers continued working on the bill. However, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the bill’s cost was problematic.

“You do the math,” McCain said. “It comes up to $3 trillion. And so far, we have no proposal for having to pay for it.”

The CBO estimates “were a death blow to a government-run health care plan,” Graham said. “The Finance Committee has abandoned that. We do need to deal with inflation in health care, private and public inflation, but we’re not going to go down to the government-owning-health-care road in America and I think that’s the story of this week. There’s been a bipartisan rejection of that.”

At some point the White House will have to get into the game rather than allow Congress to thrash about endlessly. The president will have to make clear what his bottom line is and how he’s going to pay for it. Until now Obama has largely relied on Congress to come up with the details of his agenda (e.g. on the stimulus, climate control, and healthcare) but when the liberal leadership in the House and Senate can’t find a majority for their proposals then the president will need to try to round up the votes that Pelosi and Reid haven’t been able to find, craft a compromise that will disappoint his base, or let his top priorities founder.

Obama during his brief tenure in the Senate was never a deal-maker or legisltive craftsman. Now he — or his aides — will need to do the hard work of governing. It’s obviously not their favorite activity nor one which Obama is comfortable doing, but the time for dog-and-pony shows has come and gone.