After a month long Congressional recess, the health care debate is returning to Washington D.C. With President Obama’s poll numbers slipping, along with the support for the Democrats’ health car proposal, health care reform is at a major crossroads. That is why Obama has been focusing a lot of energy into his top domestic priority, including addressing a joint session of Congress, the first since after 9/11.
Thus far in the reform process, Democrats have almost exclusively worked with other Democrats, ignoring the public’s call for bipartisanship on the issue. Liberal Democrats have refused to part with the so-called “public option”, while Republicans have entirely opposed such an option. Fiscally conservative Democrats, called Blue Dogs, have show some resistance to that detail, but it is unclear which way they would vote on a bill with it. While Congress agrees health care reform is needed, neither side seems willing to compromise anything.
Throughout our history, many major decisions were made by bipartisan compromise. While working out the Constitution, the Connecticut Compromise was made. Larger States wanted a legislative branch with membership based on the State’s population. However, smaller States favored a system in which each State would be represented equally. To satisfy all parties, the Connecticut Compromise created a bicameral legislature that included a Senate with two members per State, and a population-based House. Another compromise was made to deal with commerce in the early stages of this country.
At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the Southern States traded and exported many more goods than the States in the North. Because of this, the South wanted to make sure their good fortunes would not be exploited by the federal government. So, a compromise was made that ensured Congress could not tax the export of goods for twenty years. Many compromises were also made in the 1800s to control the spread of slavery in the United States.
During his Administration, President Nixon made concessions to keep funding Great Society programs in return for lowering taxes. President Clinton compromised with Speaker Newt Gingrich when welfare was reformed in the ’90s. President George W. Bush worked with Republicans and Democrats in passing No Child Left Behind and Medicare reform to help ease the burden on senior citizens with prescription drug costs.
If working together for a common purpose was good enough for America when some of the most important decisions were made, then why can’t bipartisanship work today? When President Obama came into office, many expected more reaching across the isle. More than six months later, a stimulus bill, climate change bill, and budget passed with very, very little support from Republicans. Almost one-fifth of Americans blame Obama for not working with Republican leaders, up from 7% in February.
While Democrats say health care costs have increased to incredible levels, the liberal wing of the party still insist on a “public option”, despite pressure from Republicans and even conservative Democrats. That doesn’t even mention, the current plan in the House, with a “public option”, will not control costs, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. In addition, Secretary Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services has stated the government-run option is “not the essential element”. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made the “public option” a necessity in order to gather support from liberals to pass the House.
While compromises have been thought of, no bill has yet included one. However, one such concession loosely proposed has been the idea of a co-op. The co-operative would offer insurance through a nonprofit, consumer entity run by its members, instead of the government. While a co-op has not been introduced in any bill, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has stated the inclusion of one in reform legislation would be “a step in the right direction”.
In Massachusetts, Former Governor Mitt Romney (R) worked with a largely Democratic State legislature to reform health care in his State. In a recent poll, almost half of Massachusetts’ residents have said the quality of health care has not changed. About an equal number of people believe the health care reform in the Bay State has been a success as to the number that believes it has been a failure.
This Wednesday (09/09/09), President Obama will speak to Congress about health care. There is some speculation that he will drop his push for a “public option”. However, if Speaker Pelosi keeps persisting on it, Obama might have to do something completely foreign, debate within his own party. Either way, in reforming health care, compromises will have to come at some point, and history shows that is truly the only way.