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August 17, 2009

WH Retreats from Retreating on Public Option

Trial balloon, not white flag.

An administration official said tonight that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “misspoke” when she told CNN this morning that a government run health insurance option “is not an essential part” of reform. This official asked not to be identified in exchange for providing clarity about the intentions of the President. The official said that the White House did not intend to change its messaging and that Sebelius simply meant to echo the president, who has acknowledged that the public option is a tough sell in the Senate and is, at the same time, a must-pass for House Democrats, and is not, in the president’s view, the most important element of the reform package.

....

A third White House official, via e-mail, said that Sebelius didn’t misspeak. “The media misplayed it,” the third official said.

Ah, that media, always makin' trouble for Obama.

Sometimes compromises are simply not possible. One side demands something the other side refuses to grant, and no amount of vague language and unrelated payoffs can bridge that gap.

Michelle Malkin links Heritage's The Foundry giving its blessing to a certain kind of "co-op"...

If by health care “co-op,” Congress means allowing private associations to collectively buy health insurance for their members or operate a health insurance exchange, or allowing people to buy health insurance from a non-profit, member-owned private insurer, then those would be positive, pro-consumer developments.

However, simply slapping the word “cooperative” onto a new “insurer,” but then specifying that the government — not the policyholders — picks the board of directors (as Sen. Schumer wants), or that taxpayers will subsidize it, or that it has to pay doctors and hospitals at Medicare rates, would just be an exercise in trying to disguise a “public plan.”

Like my take on individual mandates, while I can conceive of a plan I would approve of (or at least not oppose), what I can't conceive is that this White House would suggest anything close to such a plan.

Or they'll claim it's the version I could support, while of course the language of the actual legislation creates the forbidden system.

A congressional source told me Democrats are particularly good at this, and Republicans particularly bad. Democrats load up bills with booby-traps and language they know will be interpreted in ways they like. They also tend to write the concessions they make to Republicans in intentionally unconstitutional language, knowing the courts will strike those sections -- and thus undo the "compromise," leaving the Democratic plan standing untainted by concilliatory limitations -- within a year.

And Republican Congressmen are particularly bad at discovering this stuff, until it's too late.

Since only like fifteen legislative aides are apparently reading this stuff at all, I guess that's easy to do. Which suggests...

This is another argument in favor of posting bills in their final form online for a considerable period of time before voting on them, or before they're signed into law. Crowdsourcing by people who have experience wading through the parentheses and em-dashes might at least help decipher some of the mess to get a clearer picture of what it all means. As it stands, we're left with the few politicians who helped craft the bill saying, "Just trust us."

But they won't do that, of course, because most of the compromises and deals they make at the last moment are intended to have obscured meanings. Some Congressmen are counting on the hidden meaning; meanwhile the hidden meaning is, well, hidden from those opposing that meaning; and a great many Congressmen may understand the hidden meaning, but they want plausible deniability on having voted for it when they face reelection. They want to be able to tell constituents, "This is not the bill I thought I knew."

And for some reason, voters are willing to excuse this sort of incompetence at the basic tasks of the job. And feigned, dishonest, deliberate incompetence at that.


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posted by Ace at 10:59 AM

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