Tom Daschle, the man originally tapped to lead President Obama's health care push, is now urging him to drop the idea of offering a government-run plan.
According to ABC, the former Democratic Senate Majority leader had this to say:
"While I feel very strongly that consumers should have the choice of a national, Medicare-like plan, my colleagues do not. . . But we were concerned that the ongoing health reform debate is beginning to show signs of fracture on the public plan issue, so in order to advance the process of developing bipartisan legislation and to move it forward, it's time to find consensus here," Daschle said.
"We've come too far and gained too much momentum for our efforts to fail over disagreements on one single issue," he said.
This is significant news not merely as a result of his relationship to Obama, but because Daschle is somebody who is recognized for his network on Capitol Hill, his ability to shepard legislation through Congress and strike compromises. If he is coming out and saying this publicly, it's a pretty good indication that Democrats simply do not have the votes to pass legislation that would include a government plan.
While this is a positive devolopment for those of us who oppose government health care, I should emphasize that this doesn't mean that we're in the clear. One of the things that supporters of free market health care have feared all along was that Democrats were merely using the government plan as a bargaining tool, so that when they drop it, they can say, "Ok, we gave up something we really wanted, now let's strike a deal." They will use this to label anybody who doesn't go along as an obstructionist. But a "compromise" that still provides subsidies for individuals to purchase government-designed health care plans on a government-run exchange, imposes mandates on individuals and businesses, and steps up regulation, is not much of a compromise. It's a major victory for the left.
That's why this language by Bob Dole is troubling:
"I had a lot of trouble with [individual] mandates just as Tom had trouble with the public plan. ... But if we can't compromise, how do we expect anyone else, how are we going to get a bill passed," Dole said. "We weren't going let two or three issues derail our total effort."
Fortunately, Dole isn't in office anymore. If Obama follows Daschle's advice and drops the government plan, Republicans shouldn't simply roll over. That provision would have made it easier for government to takeover the health care system, but it is far from the only way.
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