A Bit Of A Snag
Asked a few weeks ago at his press conference (transcript here) called to discuss the tax cut deal, President Obama commented:
So this notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care. This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.
Perhaps a less self-absorbed president would not refer to "I pass a signature piece of legislation" but instead one which "we passed" our "Congress passed" or "our party passed." But then that would be one less obsessed with scapegoating those liberal "purists."
Still, it was "a signature piece of legislation." It would help, however, if that "signature" were a little clearer or more decisive. Better still would be a likelihood that it were going to be implemented. Ezra Klein, the Washington Post analyst generally fond of Obama's minimalist approach and supportive of the Affordable Care Act, commented on the Senate's refusal to pass an omnibus spending bill and substituting for it a continuing resolution. He observed:
Here's the problem with funding 2011's government using 2010's budget: When the 2010 budget passed, neither financial regulation nor health-care reform had passed. And so the 2010 budget didn't include the new funds necessary to support their implementation. We're not talking about a lot of money here, of course, but certainly some. And for the health of these bills, it's important money.
But after the collapse of the omnibus spending bill, the Democrats have moved to funding the government using a resolution that simply continues 2010's funding levels. And that means starving some of their signature accomplishments of implementation funds.
In the spirit of the holiday season, and of Christmas Day, here to be diplomatic, even generous: it might have behooved the President, whilst he was giving away the ranch on tax cuts for billionaires, to have demanded that McConnell agree to approval of the continuing resolution. Obama referred, accurately, to "tax cuts" as the GOP's holy grail; then, in return for granting them, failed to secure an agreement that would guarantee funding for his "signature" legislation or financial reform legislation.
He could have, but didn't. Instead, it's "take a tally," something he can claim as a win, whether effective or ephemeral. It is, further, a president who rationalizes his approach by claiming "this country was founded on compromise," which would have come as quite a surprise to the men who fought a revolution to win the nation's independence.
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