After appearing asleep at the wheel during much of the healthcare debates, the White House is now passionately advocating passage of a Senate bill that betrays many of President Obama's campaign promises. The bill, if passed, would force people to purchase health insurance. The bill, however, does not contain measures like the public plan option or a Medicare buy-in that Democrats -- including Obama -- have long advocated as ways of increasing competition and making health insurance affordable.
According to several media reports, Rahm Emanuel instructed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to remove the public option and Medicare buy-in to appease Senator Joe Lieberman, who threatened to filibuster the bill. Lieberman, however, is probably a scapegoat.
Left Critiques of the Senate Bill
Several liberals commentators have condemned the Senate bill. Howard Dean, a medical doctor and a veteran advocate of healthcare reform, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post which contends that the watered-down bill does not represent "real reform." Dean criticizes the removal of the public plan and Medicare buy-in provisions because he believes that the measures could reduce insurance premiums. Although Dean says he would not vote for the bill in its current format, he believes that Senators can improve it.
Furthermore, while many political commentators have focused on Lieberman's filibuster threats, Bernie Sanders, a Senator from Vermont, has threatened to withhold support for the Senate bill as well. Sanders, who, like Lieberman, is an Independent, says that the removal of the public plan option caused him to oppose the measure.
White House Bashes Liberals
With liberals voicing strong opposition to the measure, the White House, which has often appeared indifferent on the specifics of healthcare reform, has heated up its rhetoric. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Dean was not acting rationally by opposing the bill. Today, White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod (who also ran Obama's presidential campaign) said that liberal opponents of the Senate bill are "insane."
Axelrod's argument, like Gibbs' claim, rests on an erroneous conclusion. Both men apparently believe that the public must either accept the watered-down Senate bill or abandon healthcare reform altogether. But liberals seek a viable alternative option -- pursuing more substantive and rational reform than the current bill offers.
My take: Liberals were actually "irrational" and "insane" for believing that the Obama Administration would deliver dramatic liberal reforms. I have made this argument repeatedly on this blog (see here, here, here and here, for example). To date, the administration of "change" has given hundreds billions of dollars to banks and corporate America and is about to offer a boon to insurance companies by mandating individual coverage without increasing competition and reducing costs. The more things change, the more they look the same.
See also: Rahm Emanuel Tells Liberals To Kiss His Arse