It was a busy weekend in the intensifying political brawl over health care reform. Most notably, Obama’s budget guru (and health care secret weapon) Peter Orszag caused a stir by pointing out just how naked some “centrist” Senators are in their effort to kill reform. The administration is cajoling lawmakers to vote on a bill before going home for August recess and finalize a bill this year; GOP leaders are claiming that’s too fast. Last week, six self-proclaimed moderate Senators—whose votes are key—dealt a blow to Obama’s timeline by sending a high profile letter to both parties’ leadership, begging them not to rush such an important and difficult debate. Orszag translated that into the truth on CNN:
We have to remember: there are some who are advocating delay simply because they don’t have anything to put on the table. The typical Washington bureaucratic game of — ‘if you don’t have a better alternative, just delay in the hope that that kills something’ is partly what’s playing out here.
Here’s the video: Others have pointed out past debates in which the six Senators weren’t so interested in slow deliberation and paying our debts. David Kurtz at TALKING POINTS MEMO notes that four of them—Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME)—helped George W. Bush rush his massive $1.35 trillion tax cut package through Congress in barely six months. Paul Krugman dubs them the “six deadly hypocrites”:
What’s especially galling is the hypocrisy of their claimed reason for delaying progress — concern about the fiscal burden. After all, in the past most of them have shown no concern at all for the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook. Case in point: the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which denied Medicare the right to bargain for lower drug prices, locked in overpayments to private insurance companies, and did nothing, nothing at all, to pay for its proposed outlays. How many of these six self-proclaimed defenders of solvency voted no on the crucial procedural vote? One. (Joe Lieberman, to my surprise.)
For his part, Oszag soft-shoed around the fact that Democrats are among those “advocating a delay as a desperation move.” But notably, the DNC and Organizing for America announced Friday that they’re expanding their health reform ad campaign—and the new reach will hit districts represented by so-called Blue Dog Democrats in the House. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is stacked with purportedly centrist Dems, is the primary barrier to moving a House bill. The ad will now air in TV markets overlapping with 15 of the committee members’ districts. —KAI WRIGHT