Sen. Harry Reid threw a long bomb in an act of desperation. Recognizing that there was no deal on the public option, Reid resuscitated an old liberal gambit — expanding Medicare. But the questions and contradictions came flooding forth. How was this be paid for? Wouldn’t the buy-in cost be too expensive? How could we dump millions of older, sicker people into Medicare while slashing hundreds of billions in funding from the program? It frankly makes no sense.
At week’s end, a flurry of objections and criticism — from senators, the Medicare actuary, editorial pages, previously supportive business groups, doctors, and hospitals — together with shockingly negative polling on ObamaCare suggest that we may have finally reached a point when “doing nothing” (at least for a while) makes immense political sense for lawmakers. The public isn’t clamoring for health-care “reform” and they might even be pleased with lawmakers who insisted that their leaders not jam through a partisan, ill-conceived bill.
In a sense, Reid clarified what many suspected was going on. The Democrats had ceased trying to craft a workable bill and had decided to pass something, anything, and fix it later. By choosing an approach so obviously hare-brained, however, Reid deprived his party of the pretense that they were engaged in serious lawmaking. Perhaps Reid can put all the pieces together, respond to the substantive concerns coming from all sides, reassure his members that the polls don’t mean anything, and round up 60 votes before the end of the year. But now that seems a whole lot less likely. And if it all crumbles, conservatives will have Harry Reid to thank.