By Shanita Bigelow
“[W]e need to find common ground…We know it’s possible to do this,” Obama stated in his weekly address, Saturday evening. “[N]o final bill will include everything that everyone wants. That’s what compromise is…I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care…But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge. The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses…Americans with preexisting conditions cannot wait. State and federal budgets cannot sustain these rising costs.”
Thursday’s bipartisan meeting, a seven hour, televised debate, further solidified Republican and Democratic differences; chief among them, cost and implementation. And what little ground they found provided few solutions and left many, even those in attendance, with more than a few questions, most prevalent: What’s next?
“I think it was a good forum,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I hope that it could be the basis for us to have some serious negotiations. But we still have the fundamental problem: Do we go on the partisan plan that…ran through the Senate and the House or do we start over from the beginning?”
But starting over to some is tantamount to doing nothing. The “Republican mantra” of starting over “means do nothing,” according to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) also on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” That’s simply not the case, according to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WS), who said “we want to fix this…but this is not the solution,” at Thursday’s meeting.
Republicans fear a government takeover and suggest starting over and addressing the problem step by step. “Coverage doesn’t equal care,” said Sen. John Barrasso (RWY), as Republicans tout a bill that would expand coverage to only three of the more 30 million Americans currently uninsured.
“[We] can’t get from one point to the next incrementally unless we deal with it holistically,” said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).
Aside from opposing solutions to the health care quandary, the parties also differ in their definition of the problem itself, said Ronald Brownstein, Political Director for Atlantic Media, on “Meet the Press.”
“[T]he Senate bill reallocates resources in the health care system effectively enough that the independent Medicare actuary has estimated that the measure would cover 33 million more people by 2019 while increasing total health care spending by less than a penny on the dollar. It’s not perfect, but…does provide a solid foundation for a more equitable and efficient health system,” Brownstein wrote in the National Journal Magazine. Democrats hope to build upon the common ground and muster enough votesto move the legislation through to the American people. Should Democrats find themselves stymied by their fellow congressmen and women, they may opt for congressional r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . Reconciliation would allow for passage with a majority of 51 votes as opposed to 60, a risky move for such sweeping legislation. Today, President Obama will address “what’s next.” He “will talk about the merits of the legislation, mainly about the costs of doing nothing versus the cost of doing something and what this will accomplish,” said Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, to the New York Times.