Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Congress set to delay health-care bill

President Obama may think he's getting a bill to sign soon, or at least this year, but it looks like Congress will postpone legislation until the new year:

Senior Congressional Democrats told ABC News [yesterday] it is highly unlikely that a health care reform bill will be completed this year, just a week after President Barack Obama declared he was "absolutely confident" he'll be able to sign one by then.

"Getting this done by the by the end of the year is a no-go," a senior Democratic leadership aide told ABC News. Two other key Congressional Democrats also told ABC News the same thing.

This may come as an unwelcome surprise for the White House, where officials from the president on down have repeatedly said the health care bill would be signed into law by the end of the year.

I'd much rather wait for a more substantial reform package (that includes a robust public option) than settle in the short-term for an unacceptable, watered-down compromise that appeals only to Joe Lieberman, Olympia Snowe, and a handful of Democratic centrists, but I fear that a prolonged delay into next year would only give Republicans time to strengthen their opposition to reform. Of course, it would also give Democrats more time to secure the votes needed not just for passage but, prior to that, for cloture -- and for breaking a Republican filibuster.

We shall see, but I tend to think the time is now, or very soon, to get this done, and I suspect that a long delay would result not in a more substantial reform package but in a much weaker bill than the ones currently being negotiated. The window, unfortunately, may be closing. (But, then, who knows what's really going on behind the scenes?)

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