Friday, January 29, 2010

Is Rahm Emanuel trying to kill health-care reform?

Sure looks that way, what with the proposal he's floating that Democrats should focus on job creation, deficit reduction, and banking regulation before turning back to health-care reform.

Aside from the fact that this won't work, because Republicans aren't about to play along on anything, delaying health-care reform is tantamount to killing it. Ezra Klein explains:

It is very, very, very important to be clear on what the death of health-care reform looks like. It is not a vote that goes against the Democrats. It is not an admission that the White House has moved on from the subject. It is continued statements of commitment from the key players paired with a continued stretching of the timetable. Like everything else in life, policy initiatives grow old and die, even if people still love them.

The timetable Emanuel is laying out makes little sense. The jobs bill will take some time. Financial regulation will take much longer. Let's be conservative and give all this four months. Is Emanuel really suggesting that he expects Congress to return to health-care reform in the summer before the election? Forgetting whether there's political will at that point, there's no personnel: Everyone is home campaigning.

Moreover, there's a time limit on health-care reform. The open reconciliation instructions the Senate could use to modify the bill expire when the next budget is (there's disagreement over the precise rule on this) considered or passed. That is to say, the open reconciliation instructions expire soon. Democrats could build new reconciliation instructions into the next budget, but that's going to be a heavy lift. The longer this takes, the less likely it is to happen.

In other words, the longer the delay, the less likely there's reform. The Republicans know this, which is why they've tried to obstruct it at every turn, and the "put it off for now" strategy, such as it is one, has become a preferred option for those, like Emanuel, who don't see it as priority (or who oppose it altogether or want to water it down to the point of utter pointlessness).

So what's Emanuel up to? Jonathan Chait speculates:

I see two potential explanations. Either Obama doesn't know what he wants to do, and his deputies are spreading conflicting stories in order to see what takes, in which case he needs to make up his mind pronto. Or else he wants to do what he says he wants to do, but his chief of staff is out there subverting his agenda and making Congress doubt his seriousness, in which case Obama needs to shut up Emanuel or fire him.

I'm hoping it's the latter, and that Emanuel gets what he deserves. (No, he shouldn't be fired, not if Obama thinks he can still help twist some arms up on the Hill, or if he's so invaluable in the West Wing, but it might work if he just told him to keep his mouth shut. And yet, I worry that Obama actually approves of what he said and is similarly hoping to delay reform despite his supposed support for it.)

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  • As a former Chicagoian, I am familiar with the style of Politics both Obama & Rahm engage in. Deception is as necessary as breathing if you are to get anything accomplished, or so they believe. Smarmy is the word that comes to mind, and Yes...Rahm is doing the dirty work to keep his President's hands clean, as it were.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:57 AM  

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