Ezra Klein, whose first choice is passing -- and fixing -- the Senate health care bill, offers another alternative to doing nothing:
Democrats could scrap the legislation and start over in the reconciliation process. But not to re-create the whole bill. If you go that route, you admit the whole thing seemed too opaque and complex and compromised. You also admit the limitations of the reconciliation process. So you make it real simple: Medicare buy-in between 50 and 65. Medicaid expands up to 200 percent of poverty with the federal government funding the whole of the expansion. Revenue comes from a surtax on the wealthy.
And that's it. No cost controls. No delivery-system reforms. Nothing that makes the bill long or complex or unfamiliar. Medicare buy-in had more than 51 votes as recently as a month ago. The Medicaid change is simply a larger version of what's already passed both chambers. This bill would be shorter than a Danielle Steel novel. It could take effect before the 2012 election.
As Klein argues, it would be a terrible failure for Democrats to do nothing on health care reform after having spent the better part of seven months fighting over it. Not only would Democrats pay a political price for their paralysis, but in failing to act they would be forgetting the very reason they were elected to office: to serve the public interest.
As mcjoan argued earlier today, passing the Senate bill and fixing it by reconciliation does appear to be the best solution to the current mess. Although there are serious problems with the Senate bill, as DK's David Waldman and TNR's Jeff Davis explain, those problems can be fixed by reconciliation. Under such a process, we'd end up with the most comprehensive reform currently possible.
There's reason to hope that the Senate will head down this path. But if Congress can't get its act together to pass and fix the Senate bill, it at least should expand Medicaid and open up Medicare to more Americans. The only other option would be to do nothing, and if we do nothing after having held huge majorities in both the House and Senate, then what message do we really have other than 'we're not the GOP'?
Update (5:29PM): Klein has a new post up saying that he sees signs of optimism that Democrats will pursue a dual-track, pass it and fix it approach, including Barney Frank walking back his earlier comment that the HCR was dead.