In Case You Were Wondering

by digby

... what Chuck Todd thinks, he just said unequivocally on Andrea Mitchell that the Finance Committee bill is Obama's preferred bill, that it is being done with the cooperation of the White House, and that once it is released, Obama will do everything in his power to pass that bill.

Chuck Todd is a bit of a dim bulb, but he is a perfect purveyor of beltway conventional wisdom. His proclamation is what the Village believes and regardless of whether or not it's true, the debate will be shaped by that preconceived notion.

Just a word to the wise: as of September 15th, if the committee reports out a bill as promised, the proponents of real health care reform will be fighting the notion that the debate is over and anything more than minor cosmetic changes to the bucket of corporate compost the Finance Committee serves up will be portrayed as Obama caving to the hippies. Plan your arguments accordingly.

Update: Judd Gregg, (the man who proved that Obama's political judgment is more than a little bit suspect) has thrown down the gauntlet. They'll do everything in their power to stop health care cold.

Update II: In reading the Gregg article more closely, it appears that the co-op plan probably won't qualify for reconciliation. And since the Republicans are going to foreclose any cooperation on health care via filibuster if they can, it would appear that co-ops can't make it through the Senate.

Interesting dilemma for the White House. Public option or nothing?

Update III: Ooooh. The plot thickens. "Robust" public option or nothing? Brian Buetler reports:

As Senate leaders begin work on a Democrat-only health care bill, they're finding themselves confronted with an unexpected irony: Though the caucus has reached an uneasy consensus around a public option that's modeled in many ways after a private insurer, it may be necessary to make the public option more liberal, and thus, more politically radioactive, if it's to overcome a number of unique procedural hurdles.

This is the needle Democrats may have to thread if they want a public option, and at the same time, want to bypass a Republican filibuster. And the key for them will be keeping conservative Democrats on board.

"A very robust public option that scores significant savings would presumably be easy to justify doing through reconciliation," says a Senate Democratic aide. "But it is still being studied whether other, more moderate versions of a public option could pass parliamentary muster."

According to Martin Paone, a legislative expert who's helping Democrats map out legislative strategy, a more robust public option--one that sets low prices, and provides cheap, subsidized insurance to low- and middle-class consumers--would have an easier time surviving the procedural demands of the so-called reconciliation process. However, he cautions that the cost of subsidies "will have to be offset and if [the health care plan] loses money beyond will have to be sunsetted."

And there the irony continues: Some experts, including on Capitol Hill, believe that a more robust public option will generate crucial savings needed to keep health care reform in the black, thus prevent it from expiring.

It's a very technical conundrum with huge policy ramifications. So it's not surprising that Republicans are on to it, and preparing for war.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)--ranking member on the Budget Committee--says the only way for the public option to survive the process is for it to be "very aggressive in setting rates, price controls and rationing," a fact which may cost Democrats a number of conservative votes within their own party. However, if it's too weak, and doesn't meet the procedural demands of the reconciliation process, Gregg says the Republicans are preparing myriad objections to it and other aspects of the Democrats' reform plan. read on...

This really is becoming an interesting battle. The Republican obstructonism, from a number of anlges, is pushing Obama to choose between a good plan or nothing.

If he picks a good plan, maybe we should send them all thank-you notes.