If Max Baucus thought he had a prayer of getting a centrist consensus on his health-care overhaul bill in the Senate, his fellow Democrats have quickly disabused him of that notion. The Baucus plan already costs $900 billion over the next ten years and relies on a tax that will likely never produce the $287 billion revenue stream Baucus predicts. Now Jay Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer want to add a public option on top of that which will make it even costlier, both financially and politically:
Two members of the Senate Finance Committee plan to put their Democratic colleagues on the spot on Tuesday by offering amendments on whether to give uninsured Americans the opportunity to join a government insurance program.
While health care reform legislation in the House and an alternate plan in the Senate have included a so-called “public option,” the Finance Committee’s version, which Republicans haven’t rejected completely, has not included a government-sponsored provision.
Sens. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Chuck Schumer of New York planned to offer the amendments last week before the action was delayed.
Schumer and Rockefeller threaten to pull the string on an elaborate work-around by Baucus to gain the most amount of support possible for health-care reform, and it will unravel the effort. Not only will all Republicans oppose any bill that includes a public option, but a number of Democrats will also flee. Red-state Democrats such as Ben Nelson (NE), Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor (AR), and even Kent Conrad (ND) have already expressed deep misgivings about that approach and favor a different mechanism.
Rockefeller and Schumer claim that any overhaul without a government option won’t work. However, they also have not offered any explanation as to how they will pay for the addition of a public option. They also do not explain how Americans, now opposing ObamaCare in greater numbers than ever, will reward the centrists for selling out to a big-government solution. They already saw the evidence of the backlash in hundreds of town-hall meetings and Tea Party protests over the summer.
Schumer and Rockefeller have shown their dismissive attitude towards the constituents who sent them to Washington. How many more are infected with this hubris? Probably not enough to pass this deficit-exploding monstrosity, and if anything, the pair may have pulled the string that causes this to unravel more quickly than ever.