BAIER: Do you know which specific deals are in or out, as of today?
OBAMA: I am certain that we’ve made sure, for example, that any burdens on states are alleviated, when it comes to what they’re going to have to chip in to make sure that we’re giving subsidies to small businesses, and subsidies to individuals, for example.
BAIER: So the Connecticut deal is still in?
OBAMA: So that’s not — that’s not going to be something that is going to be in this final package. I think the same is true on all of these provisions. I’ll give you some exceptions though.
Something that was called a special deal was for Louisiana. It was said that there were billions — millions of dollars going to Louisiana, this was a special deal. Well, in fact, that provision, which I think should remain in, said that if a state has been affected by a natural catastrophe, that has created a special health care emergency in that state, they should get help. Louisiana, obviously, went through Katrina, and they’re still trying to deal with the enormous challenges that were faced because of that.
OBAMA: That also — I’m giving you an example of one that I consider important. It also affects Hawaii, which went through an earthquake. So that’s not just a Louisiana provision. That is a provision that affects every state that is going through a natural catastrophe.
BAIER: You have said at least four times in the past two weeks: “the United States Congress owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care.” So do you support the use of this Slaughter rule? The deem and pass rule, so that Democrats avoid a straight up or down vote on the Senate bill?
OBAMA: Here’s what I think is going to happen and what should happen. You now have a proposal from me that will be in legislation, that has the toughest insurance reforms in history, makes sure that people are able to get insurance even if they’ve got preexisting conditions, makes sure that we are reducing costs for families and small businesses, by allowing them to buy into a pool, the same kind of pool that members of Congress have.
We know that this is going to reduce the deficit by over a trillion dollars. So you’ve got a good package, in terms of substance. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.
“There’s no question premiums are still going to keep going up,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research clearinghouse on the health care system. “There are pieces of reform that will hopefully keep them from going up as fast. But it would be miraculous if premiums actually went down relative to where they are today.”
The statistics Obama based his claims on come from two sources. In both cases, the caveats got left out.
A report for the Business Roundtable, an association of big company CEOs, was the source for the claim that employers could save $3,000 per worker on health care costs, the White House said.
Issued in November, the report looked generally at proposals that Democrats were considering to curb health care costs, concluding they had the potential to significantly reduce future increases.
But the analysis didn’t consider specific legislation, much less the final language being tweaked this week. It’s unclear to what degree the bill that the House is expected to vote on within days would reduce costs for employers.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of earlier Senate legislation suggested savings could be fairly modest.
It found that large employers would see premium savings of at most 3 percent compared with what their costs would have been without the legislation. That would be more like a few hundred dollars instead of several thousand.
The claim that people buying coverage individually would save 14 percent to 20 percent comes from the same budget office report, prepared in November for Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. But the presidential sound bite fails to convey the full picture.
The budget office concluded that premiums for people buying their own coverage would go up by an average of 10 percent to 13 percent, compared with the levels they’d reach without the legislation. That’s mainly because policies in the individual insurance market would provide more comprehensive benefits than they do today.
For most households, those added costs would be more than offset by the tax credits provided under the bill, and they would pay significantly less than they have to now.
The premium reduction of 14 percent to 20 percent that Obama cites would apply only to a portion of the people buying coverage on their own — those who decide they want to keep the skimpier kinds of policies available today.
Their costs would go down because more young people would be joining the risk pool and because insurance company overhead costs would be lower in the more efficient system Obama wants to create.
The president usually alludes to that distinction in his health care stump speech, saying the savings would accrue to those people who continue to buy “comparable” coverage to what they have today.
But many of his listeners may not pick up on it.
“People are likely to not buy the same low-value policies they are buying now,” said health economist Len Nichols of George Mason University. “If they did buy the same value plans … the premium would be lower than it is now. This makes the White House statement true. But is it possibly misleading for some people? Sure.”
Note also that the CBO predicts premiums would rise by an average of 10-13 percent in the individual market. Consumers who currently purchase the most economic policies would see larger premium increases.
Finally, the Obama plan would also force millions of uninsured Americans to purchase health insurance at premiums higher than current-law premium levels, which they have already rejected as being too high. Their premium expenditures would rise from $0 to thousands of dollars. Yet the CBO counts that implicit tax as reducing average premiums, because those consumers are generally healthier-than-average. Only in Washington is a tax counted as a savings.
As I have said before, it’s not about healthcare, it’s about control.
March 4, 2010
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
S-221 Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0001
Dear Leader Reid:
We understand from press reports and comments that you and the Speaker have made that the House and Senate will use the budget reconciliation process to overhaul our nation’s health care system, which represents 1/6th of our economy. We urge you to not use reconciliation to pass a partisan bill that is opposed by the majority of Americans.
The American people have been paying close attention to the health reform debate; they understand the issues being discussed and they have expressed broad opposition not only to the substance of the health reform bills, but also to the process by which those bills have been developed. According to a February 24 CNN poll, 73 percent of Americans believe Congress should either start over on an “entirely new bill” or not do health care reform at all this year. A Gallup survey released February 25 showed that the majority of Americans oppose using reconciliation to expedite passage of health reform legislation through the Senate.
Overhauling our health care system will affect every single American and is simply too important to be passed without broad bipartisan support. Yet, it is clear that the only reason you are considering using the budget reconciliation process to pass this unpopular bill is because you have not been able to attract any Republican support for your comprehensive health bill.
We recommend you rethink your plans of expediting such legislation through Congress over the strong objections of the American people. We urge you to listen to the advice of Senator Robert C. Byrd, who was quoted in the Washington Post on March 22, 2009:
I am certain that putting health-care reform and climate change legislation on a freight train through Congress is an outrage that must be resisted.
Using the reconciliation process to enact major legislation prevents an open debate about critical issues in full view of the public. Health reform and climate change are issues that, in one way or another, touch every American family. Their resolution carries serious economic and emotional consequences.
The misuse of the arcane process of reconciliation — a process intended for deficit reduction — to enact substantive policy changes is an undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate’s institutional role.
We agree with this assessment—misusing the Senate rules in this way would be a tremendous “disservice” to the American people and it is “an outrage” that we should resist.
In that regard, to endeavor to ensure that the reconciliation process is not used to fast-track an unpopular bill through Congress, we wish to inform you that we will oppose efforts to waive the so-called Byrd Rule during Senate consideration of any reconciliation bill concerning health reform. The Byrd Rule, as you know, was created by Senator Byrd to ensure that reconciliation bills were not used to enact policy changes, the primary purpose of which is not specifically related to the federal budget. As it takes 60 votes to waive the Byrd Rule, we can ensure that any provision that trips the Byrd Rule will be stripped from the bill, which will require that the bill be sent back to the House for further consideration and additional votes.
We urge you to abandon the use of reconciliation to pass a partisan bill that is opposed by the vast majority of Americans. Instead, we encourage you to work with us on a series of bipartisan bills that provide a step-by-step approach to reducing the cost of health care for Americans.
Senate sources also sent a video of Senators DeMint, Wicker, Coburn, and Thune—all former House members— talking about the Dems being responsible for passing the bill through the reconciliation tactic,
Having determined that they lack the votes in the House to pass the Senate bills as-is, House Democrats are attempting one of the most breathtakingly unconstitutional power grabs ever witnessed – a maneuver to deem the Senate bill ALREADY PASSED by the House by rule, despite the fact that it clearly has not. Now, as we have constantly reminded our ahistorical liberal friends who have already forgotten all of 2002-2006, the filibuster is constitutional because it is a Senate rule of debate, which is expressly authorized by Article I’s delegation of power to each house of Congress to set its own rules of debate. Apparently, some Democrats can’t seem to tell the difference between a rule of debate and just declaring by rule that the House has passed a bill that they have not, when the Constitution itself expressly states that “in all  Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays[.]” What Slaughter and Pelosi here are attempting here is a blatant violation of the principles of bicameralism and presentment.
And unlike other Unconstitutional things Congress does, there’s caselaw here suggesting pretty clearly that when Congress attempts to pass a law in the absence of proper bicameralism and presentment, a person negatively affected by Congress’s action (e.g., a person required to pay a fine for not having health insurance) has standing to challenge the law’s validity in the Courts. This farce is illegal and unconstitutional on its face, and someone has to be advising the Democrats in the House of this fact.
Anyone who would stand before you and say well, if you pass health care reform, next year’s health care premiums are going down, I don’t think is telling the truth. I think it is likely they would go up, but what we’re trying to do is slow the rate of increase.”
“Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill,” Massa, who on Friday announced his intention to resign, said during a long monologue on radio station WKPQ. “And this administration and this House leadership have said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill. And now they’ve gotten rid of me, and it will pass. You connect the dots.”
the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible. In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally “conservative” parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect (let’s not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a “conservative”). The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-center parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless
Roll it back? Fat chance!
A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November. Okay, then what? You’ll roll it back — like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you’ve undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel ’n’ dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter?
Whether you want it or not, Obama’s going to feed you that socialized healthcare one way or the other, through reconciliation
On Wednesday, Obama plans to call on Congress to bring the year-long debate to a swift close, and congressional leaders expect him to signal support for a strategy that includes a special budget maneuver known as reconciliation. Under that strategy, the House would adopt the bill the Senate passed on Christmas Eve and approve a separate package of fixes to reflect a compromise worked out between Democrats in the two chambers.
Under reconciliation rules, the fixes could not be filibustered and Senate Democrats could approve them with a simple majority vote — a move intended to bypass a Republican caucus that remains united in its opposition to the legislation. Republican leaders said Obama’s offer to adopt some of the ideas they promoted at last week’s health-care summit would do little to improve what they consider a fundamentally flawed measure.
UPDATE: White House and Democratic sources hasten to add late today that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not mean to suggest the new plan would constitute a retreat from comprehensive health care reform.
Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the speaker was trying to say the new Obama health care proposal would take its policy cues from the Senate health bill and the ideas Obama posted online a week ago.
Elshami did not deny Pelosi’s comments about a “much smaller” bill could fairly be interpreted as suggesting a step back from the Senate bill. Instead, Pelosi has come to regard the Senate bill itself as “much smaller” than the House bill, Elshami said.
White House officials also said Obama’s not dramatically scaling back his proposal. No one was prepared to discuss a price tag, but it appears the ballpark 10-year figure of $1 trillion remains.
The revisions, it appears, will focus on adding GOP ideas on tort reform and selling insurance across state lines. White House Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes spoke extensively to Fox today about White House staff dealing with these two issues over the weekend (see post below).
Democrats described inclusion of medical malpractice and selling insurance across state lines as a last-ditch effort to win Republican support. Already, White House officials and Democrats have begun to argue that bipartisanship can be defined as legislation including Republican ideas, even if Republicans unanimously vote against it.
“How Republicans vote on their ideas is up to them,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday. “Bipartisanship can’t simply be none of your ideas and all of our ideas. That’s not bipartisanship.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be “much smaller” than the House bill but “big enough” to put the country on a “path” toward health care reform.
A senior administration official told Fox Obama’s proposal will be introduced Wednesday.
“In a matter of days, we will have a proposal,” Pelosi said, pointing to Obama’s forthcoming bill. “It will be a much smaller proposal than we had in the House bill, because that’s where we can gain consensus. But it will be big enough to put us on a path of affordable, quality health care for all Americans that holds insurance companies accountable.”
Yeah, right; “affordable, quality healthcare” while making insurance companies the scapegoat. I’m with Just One Minute on this:
Let me tap my inner paranoia for a moment – maybe Congress will pretend to kick a new bill around for a while. Eventually, when the current clamor has died down and the spotlight has moved elsewhere, they can decide a new bill is hopeless and what they really need to do is pass the Senate bill with reconciliation modifications. Remember, until the current Congress expires next January the Senate bill is alive.
Now, that “hey, look over there” plan is probably a loser, but it allows Pelosi et al to defer the day when they have to introduce their hard core to reality. And who knows what the morrow will bring?
IN AN UPDATE: In an UPDATE Major Garret tells us that this is not a retreat – the new bill will be smaller yet comprehensive, like a Brooklyn Decker bikini. Can’t wait to see it.
The Democratic leadership has already internalized the inevitablility of taking its political lumps. That makes reconciliation truly scary. Since the Dems know they will have to ram this monstrosity through, they figure it might as well be as monstrous as they can get wavering Democrats to go along with. Clipping the leadership’s statist ambitions in order to peel off a few Republicans is not going to work. I’m glad Republicans have held firm, but let’s not be under any illusions about what that means. In the Democrat leadership, we are not dealing with conventional politicians for whom the goal of being reelected is paramount and will rein in their radicalism. They want socialized medicine and all it entails about government control even more than they want to win elections. After all, if the party of government transforms the relationship between the citizen and the state, its power over our lives will be vast even in those cycles when it is not in the majority. This is about power, and there is more to power than winning elections, especially if you’ve calculated that your opposition does not have the gumption to dismantle your ballooning welfare state.
Consequently, the next six weeks, like the next ten months, are going to be worse than we think. We’re wired to think that everyone plays by the usual rules of politics — i.e., if the tide starts to change, the side against whom it has turned modifies its positions in order to stay viable in the next election. But what will happen here will be the opposite. You have a party with the numbers to do anything it puts its mind to, led by movement Leftists who see their window of opportunity is closing. We seem to expect them to moderate because that’s what everybody in their position does. But they won’t. They will put their heads down and go for as much transformation as they can get, figuring that once they get it, it will never be rolled back. The only question is whether there are enough Democrats who are conventional politicians and who care about being reelected, such that they will deny the leadership the numbers it needs. But I don’t think we should take much heart in this possibility. Those Democrats may well come to think they are going to lose anyway — that’s why so many of them are abandoning ship now. If that’s the case, their incentive will be to vote with the leadership.
At the end of the summit debacle, President Obama put the best face on a bad day by indicating that he intended to push ahead with socialized medicine and face the electoral consequences (“that’s what elections are for,” he concluded). He’s right about that. For Republicans, it won’t be enough to fight this thing, then deride it if Democrats pull it off, and finally coast to a very likely electoral victory in November. The question is: What are you going to do to roll this back? What is your plan to undo this?
Does anyone really think either Reid or Pelosi have the votes in hand to get the Obamacare hybrid House-Senate bill passed and into law? We are where we are precisely because Obama does not have, and never has had, enough votes amongst Congressional Democrats votes to pass health care reform. The Republicans have never been relevant to the process beyond potentially offering Democrats political cover for an unpopular vote.
The Republicans at the table yesterday understood perfectly who that health care summit was supposed to persuade: It wasn’t the public. It wasn’t Congressional Republicans. It was House and Senate Democrats. And given the fact that the Republicans did not implode, and the ground has not shifted under anyone’s feet, there is no reason to believe that those Congressional Democrats reluctant to commit lemming-like acts yesterday will be more inclined to commit them today.
Imagine for a moment a world where the 112th Congress is not being run by Pelosi and Reid. Do you think that the President might end up with a health care reform bill that… forget ‘he can happily sign to show how bipartisan he is.’ At this point, the President will settle for a bill that he can actually sign. Which was the ostensible point of this summit to begin with; and the only event of real note there was a rather pointed refutation of the Democratic lie that Republicans have no health care ideas or plans. Not even David Gergen wants to run with that meme anymore.