Progressive observers of the healthcare reform effort aren't too heartened after the continuing recalcitrance of three ConservaDems and Joe Lieberman on healthcare reform, and the newfound willingness in leadership, as expressed by Dick Durbin to find a way to mollify them. The problem is, anything that works to make these guys happy isn't going to be real reform.
Here's Robert Reich:
But what more can possibly be compromised? Take away the word "public?" Make it available to only twelve people?
Our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to ... our private, for-profit health care system. Except that now private health insurers and Big Pharma will be getting some 30 million additional customers, paid for by the rest of us.
Upbeat policy wonks and political spinners who tend to see only portions of cups that are full will point out some good things: no pre-existing conditions, insurance exchanges, 30 million more Americans covered. But in reality, the cup is 90 percent empty. Most of us will remain stuck with little or no choice -- dependent on private insurers who care only about the bottom line, who deny our claims, who charge us more and more for co-payments and deductibles, who bury us in forms, who don't take our calls.
Josh Marshall seems ready to give up on it:
Now, there are many people who look at this and say that the bill(s) under discussion are so anemic that they're maybe not worth fighting for at all. And that's certainly a legitimate opinion. But I think there's another question. Considering how down to the wire this is, is it really worth holding up everything else contained in the bill when the point of contention, the public option, is as measly as it is?
The problem is, you give up on this and what do Democrats have to exclaim about doing for healthcare reform in 2010? Individual mandates? Making people buy crappy insurance from the same old insurers that will continue to find ways to exclude their claims and jack up their premiums? Giveaways to the insurance industry of upwards of $600 billion in the form of the subsidies and credits given to the people who are forced to buy the crappy insurance? All this, and the Senate isn't even going to end the industry's anti-trust exemption. As symbolic a gesture as revoking seems to be, the symbolism of the Democrats being the party that maintains that exemption is so counter to what the party is supposed to stand for as to be downright pathetic.
The problem is, as Greg Sargent points out, is that Lincoln, Landrieu, Nelson, and Lieberman share a characteristic of the Republicans: they just don't really give a shit that people are suffering. They have no problem "letting the whole thing come crashing down, with potentially catastrophic consequences for their party and, by their own lights, the country as a whole." And the remainder of the Senate, and the vast majority of House members who do care are hanging on to the shreds of a hope that they can make this whole mess just a little bit better, even if just for a sliver of the population.
The alternative, of course, is for progressives to be just as willing as the ConservaDems to blow this thing up. Sherrod Brown says he's still committed to the public option, and that it will be difficult to maintain the support of progressive Senators if this gets watered down any further. Two of his progressive colleagues agree.
"I strongly suspect that there are a number of senators, including myself, who would not support final passage without a strong public option," he said. Not supporting final passage, however, is different than vowing to filibuster it and prevent it from even getting to a vote on final passage, as independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is now doing, hoping to strip the public option.
But Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said on Saturday night that if the bill bends toward the conservatives, "You'll lose people on the left."
One of those could be Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who said Saturday he'd oppose any bill without a public option. "I won't vote for it," he said.
Not to mention a very large bloc of Democrats in the House, who would have a hard time holding their noses to vote for an opt-out public option, much less the latest iteration that seems to be in vogue, Carper's triggered co-ops.
The most obvious solution is to break the bill up into two, pass the insurance reforms through regular procedure and the public option and other financial pieces through reconciliation. Schumer was all for it as recently as September. It's ridiculous to take it off the table now, both because of how critical it is to do this bill right, and because if the ConservaDems get their way on this, they will hold the leadership hostage on every damned bill down the line. That includes a potential second stimulus, a strong jobs package, any kind of meaningful financial reform.
It would also mean a Democratic party that's no better than the Republicans when it comes to prioritizing Main Street over Wall Street, and grim prospects for 2010 and 2012.