Friday, September 18, 2009

Getting to 60 (Hey, Reporters, We Have Questions)

OK, reporters, here's what we want to know about health care:

Is the bargaining going on now one-dimensional, or not?

What I mean is that there's a tendency to think of bills as sitting on a liberal/conservative single dimension. Make Ben Nelson happier, and you make Jay Rockefeller less happy. If that's the case, then the question is whether there exists a sweet spot that both liberals and moderates can live with, and how good a job the leadership (Baucus, Reid, Waxman, Pelosi, Obama, etc.) are doing at finding that spot.

But that might not be true. As I read Ezra Klein's excellent interviews with Rockefeller and Wyden, and the NYT interview with Snowe, the sense I get is less a question of ideology and more a case of idiosyncratic Senators with potentially non-conflicting demands. Maybe. If that's the case, may Wyden happier, and Ben Nelson might not care at all as long as whatever he cares about isn't affected. That story isn't necessarily a better one for reaching 60 votes, since deadlocks between any two Senators over some seemingly small provision could sink the bill, but it is a different story than the one about left/right conflict.

Reading these interviews and other coverage, I'm really not sure which of these stories is correct. Overall, I get the sense that the policy experts (such as Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn) need a little help here from Capitol Hill reporters (again, I thought Ezra's interviews were very good, but where are the Hill beat reporters?).

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