A month ago, as Congress prepared to return to Washington DC in total disarray on overhauling the American health-care system, the White House proclaimed that Barack Obama himself would draft a proposal to restart the process. His joint speech in Congress mentioned no such plan, however, and the media quickly shifted its focus to the Senate Finance Committee, where moderates would have more influence than in Nancy Pelosi’s House. Today, though, Roll Call reveals that the White House did craft its own plan — but wants to keep it under wraps now that Congress has returned to its own deliberations:
The White House has been secretly drafting its own health care legislation that it may unveil at some point during the debate if officials believe it would help secure passage of a bill, according to sources familiar with the effort.
Sources differed on how far the process has gotten, with some saying a bill is basically finished and others saying they are aware only of a partially completed effort. White House officials, though they know their preferences, also appear to be constructing different options that could be thrown together depending on how the legislation is shaping up in Congress. …
“They are getting ready for a backup,” said one veteran observer of health care debates who was knowledgeable about the effort. “It will be parachuted in if necessary.”
The White House measure appears designed to entice moderate Democrats and perhaps even Republicans into supporting a health care overhaul if legislative efforts in Congress fail or if they move too far to the left. Sources said one possibility would be to invoke the measure if the Senate cannot rally 60 votes to break a filibuster. Another option may be to present details of what the White House wants during a conference between the House and the Senate.
This creates another problem for Democrats. Both moderates and progressives in their caucus need traction over some contentious points of the plan, especially the public option. With the White House super-secret plan known, members of both chambers may demand to see it to gauge where they stand with the administration. Both groups would also be concerned, as Roll Call notes, that Obama was preparing to “sell them out.”
No matter how one looks at it, though, it’s a strange notion of leadership. Barack Obama insisted that he had the “judgment to lead,” but on his highest priority domestic-agenda item, Obama leads by … hiding. A real leader would have produced this plan months ago and shaped the legislation through assertive engagement. Instead, Obama has waited until the end of the process, and even then keeps his thoughts a secret.
What’s in the White House plan? Why is Obama afraid to show it to Congress, and more importantly, to the rest of the nation? Is this Obama’s idea of “the most transparent administration in history”?