The day before yesterday’s White House health care summit, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) told reporters: “The only way this works is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then, depending on what the package is, the reconciliation provision that moves first through the House and then comes here.” When Conrad was reminded that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has repeatedly insisted that the House will not pass the Senate bill until the Senate passes a second bill that fixes the first, Conrad replied: “Fine, then it’s dead.”
This was the dynamic that President Barack Obama was trying to alter with his eventually-seven-hour meeting. And judging by pretty much every major news outlet, he completely failed. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), who is one of the 39 House Democrats that the White House needs to switch from a “no” the first time around to a “yes” this time, told The New York Times: “I donâ€™t see very many at all who voted no who are going to switch their votes unless there are substantial changes in the bill.”
And that reality is already spreading throughout Capitol Hill. Politico reports that while Democrats were hoping to pass Obamacare by Easter, “there were signs Thursday night that the schedule was slipping. One Democratic lawmaker involved in the negotiations, who asked not to be identified to speak candidly of the process, said the party would not, in fact, start down the path of reconciliation next week.”
That is some rare great news for the American people. As Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) ablyÂ explained yesterday, Americans do not want Washington dictating their health care decisions to them, and that is exactly what Obamacare would do:
The difference is this: We don’t think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this. … if the National Restaurant Association or the National Federation of Independent Business, on behalf of their members, wants to set up an association health plan, we think they’ll probably do a good job on behalf of their members. Let them decide to do that instead of restricting insurance competition by federalizing the regulation of insurance, and by mandating exactly how it will work, you make it more expensive and you reduce the competition among insurers for people’s business. We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurers compete more. But if you federalize it and standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that. And that’s the big difference we have.
President Obama bristled at this analysis,Â responding: “Can I just say that, at this point, any time that a question is phrased as, “Does Washington know better,” I think we’re kind of tipping the scales a little bit there since we all know that everybody is angry at Washington right now.”
The President seems to understand that the American people do not want bureaucrats in Washington controlling their health care decisions, but then he seems completely oblivious to the fact that increasing bureaucratic control at the expense of every American’s ability to make their own choices is exactly what his plan does.
The American people know this. That is why support for the President’s health care plan has been steadily declining. That is why the most recent CBS News/New York Times Poll shows 53% of Americans say the United States cannot afford to fix health care at this time. It is why 52% of Americans tell Gallup they do not want to see Obamacare pass with only 50 Senators in support (Vice President Joe Biden casting the 51st vote). That is why 59% of registered voters tell Fox News they want the President to start over.
And he should. If the President truly wants to enact historic bipartisan and lasting health care reform, he needs to admit this version of Obamacare is dead. In 2011, when there is likely to be a more centrist Congress in place, then Obama should come back and start again.