This time, it’s Ted Kennedy’s turn to go under the Obama bus. After the CBO reported that the health-care plan circulating in the Senate would cost at least $1,000,000,000,000 (a trillion) over ten years, Jake Tapper reports that the White House has hit full retreat, complete with backup beepers. Despite having President Obama on the road just yesterday in an effort to build support for the reform efforts wending their way through Congress, suddenly no one in the West Wing has ever heard of them:
“This is not the Administration’s bill,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement following the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s health care reform legislation, “and it’s not even the final Senate Committee bill.”
Both statements are true, though it’s not clear who, if anyone, had been saying that the legislation drafted by the powerful chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee constituted President Obama’s bill. Kennedy is but one of several legislators taking a crack and drafting legislation that will proceed through the legislative meat grinder and result in a bill that President Obama will sign. In reality, there is no actual “Administration” bill.
The CBO made that same point about the lack of finality. That’s why the report only prices those elements within the incomplete draft, which did not initially include a “public plan”. The cost for that — which the Obama administration demands as part of the final version — will likely push the final number much higher.
Gibbs’ response demonstrates that, yet again, the White House has deferred the entirety of policy creation to Congress. Just as Obama did with his stimulus plan, the administration hasn’t offered any leadership on the issue. Instead, Obama makes himself into the Campaigner in Chief on policy speeches supporting legislation to which he remains oblivious until the CBO puts a pricetag on it. Don’t get me wrong: that’s great work if you can find it, traveling on Air Force One in the middle of a severe recession explaining how the President plans to spend ever-increasing shares of money none of us have. And it does fit nicely into his previous work experience, none of which required him to show any leadership or do any actual work outside stump speeches.
Apparently responding to the CBO’s numbers and the ensuing criticism of the Kennedy bill, Gibbs continued, saying “what is clear is what will happen if we let political posturing stand in the way of reform again: exploding deficits, lob loss, dwindling benefits, and millions more Americans joining the ranks of the uninsured. That’s unacceptable, and that’s why stakeholders from across the spectrum are joining with President Obama to enact health care reform that finally gets costs under control and expands coverage – without adding to our deficit.”
A plan that costs a trillion dollars won’t add to our deficit? Really? And adding a public plan on top of that won’t create an entitlement commitment on top of the collapsing entitlements of Medicare and Social Security, either. And the unicorns will run through the lollipop fields with the Easter Bunny to collect all of the lemonade raindrops for Peter Pan. Don’t forget to clap for Tinkerbell!
Maybe someone should pull Ted out from under the bus, and ask him how it feels to get shafted by the administration for carrying its water on Capitol Hill.