Mike Enzi (R-WY) has taken plenty of heat from his conservative constituents for attempting to hammer out a bipartisan health-care reform bill in the Senate. However, Enzi appears frustrated not with Wyoming voters but with the Democrats on the other side of the table. With just a few days left before Congress resumes work, Enzi blasted the Democrats for spending too much money and limiting patient choice, when what America needs is the exact opposite:
A leading GOP negotiator on health care struck a further blow to fading chances of a bipartisan compromise by saying Democratic proposals would restrict medical choices and make the country’s “finances sicker without saving you money.”
The criticism from Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., echoed that of many opponents of the Democratic plans under consideration in Congress. But Enzi’s judgment was especially noteworthy because he is one of only three Republicans who have been willing to consider a bipartisan bill in the Senate.
In the Republicans’ weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Enzi said any health care legislation must lower medical costs for Americans without increasing deficits and the national debt.
“The bills introduced by congressional Democrats fail to meet these standards,” he said.
Enzi called for a reform effort that pushes for increased competition, especially across state lines, and for tort reform. Not coincidentally, the GOP has a full proposal for health-care reform along those principles in the House, HR2520, introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). The national media has completely ignored this bill, which flies in the face of Barack Obama’s accusations that his opponents want to “do nothing” about rising health-care costs. Thus far, the bill remains stuck in two House committees, Ways and Means (chaired by Charlie Rangel) and Energy and Commerce (chaired by Henry Waxman). Neither Democrat has made any noise about bipartisanship in consideration of this bill, which has as much chance of getting to the House floor as Obama converting to a Milton Friedman-like free-market economist.
Democrats in both chambers keep talking about bipartisanship, especially in the context of Ted Kennedy’s death. They lament that Republicans don’t follow Kennedy’s example and try to work in a bipartisan fashion, but that assumes a definition of bipartisanship as “you shut up while I dictate terms” (or, as Obama said to the GOP, “I won”). Republicans tried to work with Democrats on Porkulus (many of them happy to spend money under normal circumstances), and had Nancy Pelosi allowed them to contribute to it, she and Obama would have had half of the House GOP voting for the bill with few really substantial changes. Instead, they shut the GOP out of negotiations and wrote a terrible bill, which the Democrats now own fully and completely.
Enzi provides a canary-in-the-coal-mine moment, along with Chuck Grassley and even Olympia Snowe. None of these Senators can be mistaken for hard-line conservatives, and all of them have reputations similar to Kennedy for cutting deals. If the Democrats can’t bend enough to get these three on board, then the operative definition of bipartisan has to be “bye-bye, Republicans.” When Enzi walks away, he will take the tattered fig leaf of Democratic moderation with him, and the Democrats will have to run the risk of looking both radical and dictatorial in pushing through a plan that has generated anger and revulsion across the nation.