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Public Option=Obama’s Waterloo?

September 30, 2009

Summer 2009: Perhaps it will go down as the “Battle of Healthcare Reform.”

As the HRC heard tonight from Brett McGurk, President Obama has put foreign policy on the back burner since entering office, despite the two wars raging. Why? Because he is so determined to win a victory of healthcare. It has consumed his presidency, and Republicans can defeat him, they stand an excellent chance at rebounding in the next election cycle.

As you may well know, the biggest skirmish of the battle thus far has been over the public option, a government-run health insurance plan that would “compete” with private health insurance. The liberal wing of the Democratic party is touting the public option as America’s savior, but Republicans and moderate Democrats see the public option for what it is: a huge new federal bureaucracy that would, in addition to ballooning the deficit and mandating a tax increase, put private insurers out of business and lower the overall quality of healthcare.

Sen. Jim DeMint set the tone for the battle by proclaiming that healthcare would be Obama’s “Waterloo.” A few days later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rallied his troops by saying, “We will fight to the death [on the public option.]” Though not well known for his charismatic leadership, McConnell has proven his mettle this summer, valiantly holding all 40 Republican Senators in line on this do-or-die issue.

Yesterday, the Republicans struck the biggest blow of the healthcare battle. The powerful Senate Finance Committee, which has been crafting a healthcare compromise all summer, defeated two amendments proposed by liberal Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that would have included a public option in the bipartisan healthcare bill. All ten Republicans in the committee voted against both amendments, as did committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and two moderate Democrats from the heartland. Perhaps most encouragingly, Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the most liberal Republican in the Senate, held the line and voted against the public option.

Alas, this battle is won, but Obama has not yet fallen from his high horse. Republicans need to propose alternatives to the public option in order to pass meaningful reform that won’t destroy our current system, and they must be ready to hold the line and sway moderate Democrats again should the public option rise from the grave. So, well done, Mitch & Co., but we’re still a few victories away from Waterloo.

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