Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Making 60 (and 218) Happy

Jonathan Cohn has a good roundup of the contradictory information -- some of it leaks, some of it from official statements and interviews -- coming out of the health care negotiations. 

What strikes me about these negotiations is that on the Senate side, the presumed sticking point Senators -- Nelson, Lieberman -- aren't exactly known for their thorough knowledge of legislative detail.  Nor are a lot of the remaining differences between the House and Senate (that's assuming the public option is dead and the Senate abortion language is accepted) very high-profile -- with the big exception of the Cadillac tax, which is a big deal with a core Democratic interest group. 

I guess I'd like to see a bit more reporting on it: who is negotiating on behalf of Senate moderates, and what exactly do they care about?  Jon Cohn says that reports have Ben Nelson pushing hard on the design of the exchanges...really?  I could very much believe that the moderates would care about the total cost, and the effect on the deficit, but I'm surprised to learn that they may be getting fairly deep into policy detail -- mainly because none of the moderate Senators I've seen interviewed seem to be very interested in that sort of thing. 

Without more reporting, I'm therefore inclined to think that a lot of what we're seeing right now is smokescreen.  In addition to the tough high-profile stuff (financing, total cost, effect on deficit), there are presumably lots and lots of very low-profile provisions that are very important for narrow interests, and therefore for small groups of Members of one or both chambers.  No one wants to say that that stuff is holding up the bill -- it's totally legitimate, but it sounds tawdry -- and so it's better to kick up a lot of dust until everything is sorted out.  Or, at least, that's my guess.

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