Health care moves to the next step

Editorial Board

The tide seems to have turned for the Obama administration in the fight to pass meaningful health care reform as of the last couple of weeks. What it will look like is anyone’s guess as lawmakers continue to play politics with an issue that will affect most if not all Americans in a real and tangible way. Thanks to the efforts of two people in the United States Senate the debate as to how the future of health care will finally take shape will move into an open floor debate.

Many people will think of Senate majority leader Harry Reid who in recent days has started to take heat for his stance on health care back in his home state of Nevada or Senator Dick Durbin who has been one of the point men of a robust public option in the senate as the wrangling over what America’s overhaul of health care will end up looking like.

The real player in the Senate has turned out to be moderate republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, whom has bucked her party to vote with the democrats on the senate finance committee and in the process has managed to negotiate the democrats out of all the major pillars of what would be termed a successful bill by progressives in congress like Nancy Pelosi.

Included in these concessions have been surrendering of the so-called “public option” that would in theory, create competition for the private health care industry. Also surrendered without so much as a moral objection are the employer mandates that require all businesses to offer health care to employees through their business. What quite possibly might be the most shocking thing conceded by a democratic party that has a large enough majority in congress to pass anything they really want, might be the accountability clauses that are a staple of most of the other bills in congress that would impose stiff fines and make all health care industry providers accountable in a sharp and tangible way to their customers.

The waving of such a white flag is courtesy of Montana democrat Max Baucus the chairman of the senate finance committee, who has seemingly sold away all of the planks of what his party has identified as the needed components of a meaningful health care plan. Baucus has attempted to stand on the principle of bipartisanship to justify his plan as well as his fiscally conservative record and the need to hold costs in check as his reasons for sagging in what has been an amazing show of concern for re-election over the needs of the country.

In contrast, Snowe has seemingly turned her back on the republican party on the issue of health care and is charting a course which could potentially make her one of the most powerful members of the senate. Snowe’s ability to force Baucus’ capitulation on almost every issue of consequence even despite the democrats not needing her vote to get the bill out of committee is truly one of the master strokes of politics in the senate in quite some time. In the interim Snowe will continue to be a thorn in the side of the republican minority as she stands to paint the party of Lincoln as the party of obstruction.

At the end of the day though, one can only hope that in the power games being played inside the beltway of D.C. that our elected officials will remember the voter when it comes time to consider the future of American well being.