About this Blog
About The Author
Email Me

RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

« Obama versus Limbaugh | HorseRaceBlog Home Page | Sarah Palin Starts a PAC »

Clyburn on health care

This story from the Hill is noteworthy:

A prominent House Democrat said he doesn't expect a comprehensive healthcare reform bill to pass Congress in 2009, saying an incremental approach to covering the uninsured would be better "than to go out and just bite something you can't chew."

House Majority Whip James Clyburn's (D-S.C.) timeline on tackling healthcare is at odds with the timetable proposed by Senate Democrats and could represent a major shift in the House Democrats' strategy of dealing with the uninsured.

During an interview on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program that aired on Sunday, Clyburn said he doesn't anticipate that comprehensive healthcare legislation will be approved in 2009.

The early Clinton administration tried comprehensive health care reform after a tough battle on its deficit reduction package, and it lost. Perhaps there is concern that the Obama administration might have similar trouble? That wouldn't be a huge surprise. Health care was not a top issue in the recent election, so it is hard to argue that President Obama has a public mandate on comprehensive reform. That means that the public debate on the issue would have to be held - and the opposition would surely be mobilized. I'd be on that opposition being stiff - comprehensive reform is going to change the way a lot of different types of people do business - and all of those who see themselves as losers (be it doctors, nurses, drug manufacturers, patient advocacy groups, whatever) would try to stop it.

Clyburn suggests a different way forward for Democrats on the issue:

While noting he does not know exactly when President Obama want to move forward with a universal healthcare measure, Clyburn said, "If you take what we've done with [the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill] and then you follow with [more spending] on community health centers, you would have gone a long way to building a foundation upon which to build a universal access healthcare program.

That's incrementalism, which doesn't have the sex appeal of "comprehensive" reform but seems to me to be a much sounder political strategy. If you go step-by-step, rather than taking it all in one giant leap, you run a lower risk of arousing opposition.

-Jay Cost