Since the House passed the health care reform legislation on Sunday, a whole new (predictable) storyline has emerged: Republicans simply worked to defeat the bill and did nothing to try to compromise with Democrats.
On the Diane Rehm Show on Monday, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution referenced an article by David Frum (someone who’s already at odds with many in the conservative movement). Dionne said:
I think there’s a very important piece circulating the web by David Frum…he [Frum] questions what he called a radical strategy the Republicans pursued and wonders would Republicans have been better off had they taken this essentially moderate structure and tried to make it a little more conservative and try to make a deal.
NPR Washington Editor Ron Elving added:
The alternative to doing this was not doing nothing; the alternative was to do something other than this bill. And the bill they might have done was some kind of conservative compromise.
Gosh…maybe they’re right? Were we so focused on defeating the bill that we didn’t offer any reasonable compromises?
Hold on. Slap the face. Reality check.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard history rewritten so quickly. As I’ve written here, here and here, Republicans and conservatives have been offering alternative, market-based reforms for years now.
Fortunately, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) helped set the record straight – for me and many other listeners who may have gotten confused – on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning. Host Linda Wertheimer asked the Senator:
The Republican Party made the decision to unite and oppose the health care bill – just completely try to vote for it to fail. Do you think the Republican Party gave up the possibility of influencing the policy? Is it going to be a good strategy long term?
Sen. Gregg responded:
“I think that’s a bit of revisionist history. …what happened actually is that we were negotiating. I had a proposal, Sen. Coburn had a proposal, Sen. Burr had a proposal. There was a bi-partisan proposal with Sen. Wyden and Sen. Bennett, which I was the co-sponsor of. We actually marked up bills and negotiated bills. And then at the 12th hour or the 24th hour, the Democratic Party, under the leadership of Sen. Reid, went into a backroom — no Republicans were allowed in, nobody even knew where the room was; it was behind a hidden door somewhere – and produced deus ex machina, this new bill, which they dropped on our desk on a Saturday afternoon and told us we had to vote on on it by Christmas Eve, 3 days later, and without allowing us any amendments…we weren’t allowed to be part of the process.
In the aftermath of such a devastating piece of legislation, it’s important to look back at what happened, what could have been done differently, and where we go from here. But let’s start by putting the facts on the table. Republicans and conservatives worked hard to offer a menu of potential reforms that wouldn’t require digging up the foundation of our current health care system – reforms that would increase competition, allow for portability, and give individuals more control of their health care. Coincidentally, these reforms would have also driven down costs and improved care.
Democrats may have won their bill, but don’t let them change the story.