Last week had to be a bit awkward for Democrats. They labored to pass a health care bill that among other things, establishes a government advisory panel to curb health care costs with industrywide medical recommendations. And at just the wrong moment, a similar government advisory panel provoked outrage by recommending that women stop getting so many breast cancer screenings.
Unruffled, the Democrats pressed on with their 2,000-page health care bill, going so far as to hold a rare Saturday night vote on whether to proceed to debate. There’s a good reason they are in such a rush to pass the legislation. It isn’t because the bill will cut health care costs — it will actually increase them, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It isn’t because the bill will improve the quality of care, or because it will quickly benefit the uninsured. Most provisions of the bill don’t even kick in until 2014. (Its tax increases start immediately.)
Democrats are in such a hurry because 2010 is an election year. That’s no time to pass legislation that a large and highly motivated segment of voters opposes strongly. The Democrats hope that if they act now, public anger might wane before midterm elections next November.
This is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bought the votes of wavering moderates in his party with promises of extra-large servings of pork for their states. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., proudly proclaimed that her “yes” vote on Saturday night had cost $300 million. (Thomas Jefferson bought Louisiana and a wide swath of the American Midwest for a mere fraction of that in 1803.)
The real issue in this debate is not whether the bill includes certain provisions, like a government-run public option, or fines and jail time for people who do not purchase insurance. Those are just two bad ideas among hundreds that Democrats want to impose.
The real problem is that no one expects the Senate debate to produce anything that increases the freedom of consumers to choose the health care they want or that encourages competition and lower insurance premiums.
No matter how the debate goes, the result will be bigger, more expensive, more intrusive government.
The voters, about to be burdened by yet another trillion-dollar initiative from President Barack Obama, at least have the recourse of the ballot box. They would do well to remember the names of those who voted yes, and make sure that those senators join the ranks of the unemployed next year.