Monday, March 22, 2010

H.R. 3962

If you are remotely interested in the topic of Health Care reform, you've probably already read a handful of articles about the H.R. 3962, the Health Care Bill which passed the House of Representatives yesterday evening, but please spare me a few more paragraphs.

Regardless of how you feel about the provisions within the bill itself, the passage of comprehensive Health Care reform is quite an accomplishment. As Obama said far more articulately than I, many times Congress has been on the precipice of meaningful Health Care reform, and each and every time they have failed to rope the perfect storm of timing, momentum and bipartisanship that is required to push something over the finish line. I know prominent Republicans are poo-pooing the use of Reconciliation to pass the bill (despite the fact that they used this tactic for two rounds of Bush Tax Cuts), but the fact of the matter is that Democrats bent over backwards for the better part of a year to be receptive to Republicans and incorporate their suggestions into the bill. As it stood last night, HR 3962 had over 200 Republican Amendments within it. In the past few months, when Republicans began to circle the rhetoric wagons, it became very clear that they had no interest in any sort of bipartisan solution. They were simply stalling the bill with the hope that they could peel off wavering Democrats one-by-one until the entire thing fell apart. This process culminated in the election of Scott Brown in late January, and Health Care reform seemed dead in the water.

In a rare display of strength and poise, Democrats used this event as a galvanizing force and began a steady, methodical march forward. Most of the credit for this belongs to President Obama, who forced the hand of Republicans and painted them as the "Party of No". By holding a public Q&A with Republican leadership, giving speech after speech and traveling throughout the US, Obama allowed Democrats to regain control. If Republicans wanted to stoke 'Death-Panel' and 'Big-Government' fears, they could do so, but the time for negotiation had come and gone.

Many argued that Obama should have stepped in far sooner to try and smooth over partisan bickering, but like an encouraging father he wanted to see if they could handle it on their own. Of course they couldn't and the already fractured Democratic Party splintered into factions that Obama had to piece back together with Duct tape and paper-clips to get the thing done. It was an ugly, fascinating process, one that showed both the best and the worst parts of Government, but one that ultimately did what a Government should do. Improve the lives of its people. The Health Care bill may be unpopular right now, and there will likely be Democratic casualties in November, but once the frothing Tea Baggers and the talking heads fade away, all the American people will wonder is 'What took so long?'.

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