With the failure of inclusion of the Public Option in the Senate's committee Health Care Reform bill, the 'blue dog' Democrats in the Senate have thrown the Health Care Reform measure into Obama's lap to throw back to Congress or sign. This is a very interesting new chapter begun in the Health Care Reform journey.
President Obama now has a relatively simple logical choice, but, one made enormously complex in its political ramifications. The choice is to veto health care reform in the absence of some viable health care cost reduction alternative which the Public Option offered, or, sign a health care reform package which makes the economics of health care in America worse, not better. This assessment of course, presumes that the Congress will fail to develop an alternative that can bend the health care cost inflation curve downward from its current upward spiral threatening the bankruptcy of American workers and families and the federal government in less than less than 15 years.
The "Public Option' according to the words of Republicans like Sen.'s Enzi, Grassley, and Rep. Boehner, would become so popular amongst the public as to constitute a real threat to the private health insurance industry, culminating, eventually, in a government takeover of all health insurance by its very popularity with individuals and business. Whether these Republican fears are justified or not, is for another article and debate. The very admission however, by Republicans attests to the ability of the Public Option to become a direct competitor to private insurance companies, which, as we all know from high school economics, would generally lower health care costs going forward, as competition does.
So, what conservatives and blue dog Democrats are really fighting here, is competition. Some conservatives attempt to argue tax payer subsidized programs do not constitute true competition. But, their argument falls flat, in light of the relevant logical fact that any provider (private or public) offering a lower cost alternative will constitute competition for insurance subscribers. Therefore, conservatives appear to be arguing against their own principles, whether they be conservative Democrats or Republicans.
President Obama has repeatedly invoked the necessity of health care reform to drive down the overall cost of health care in America as a means of salvaging our economy from a path of ruin. Thus, it is hard to imagine how Pres. Obama could possibly sign a health care reform bill which fails this essential requirement and do his reelection bid or the Democratic Party any good whatsoever. One can imagine Pres. Obama rationalizing to the American people that a measure he signs accomplishes other positive objectives for Americans in the absence of driving costs down, but, his opponents would not allow such rationalizations to survive as viable in the media and public awareness in light of Pres. Obama's host of assertions that cost inflation ontainment is essential.
It therefore, logically follows that Pres. Obama's only choice is to veto the coming health care inflation bill, with orders to the Democratic Congress to go back to the drawing board, and either reinstate the Public Option or devise an alternative which will do what the Public Option would have, in terms of competitive cost reduction in coming decades. Politically however, this creates a mine field for Congressional Democrats to traverse before the 2010 mid-term elections. If they fail to provide health care reform before the 2010 elections, they will lose a sizable portion of the majority they now have. And without that majority, health care reform that will address the nation's needs will again become electrified into a political third rail, and refuse being touched for at least many election cycles to come. Failure to pass health care reform before the 2010 elections commits the United States to ever increasing bankruptcy of American citizens and the federal government's Medicare programs.
With such devastating consequences resulting from Pres. Obama's veto, it is equally hard to imagine how he could politically afford to veto a health care reform package, regardless of its deficiencies. Which sets up what appears to be a classic Catch-22 box, damned if does and damned if he doesn't, of the Oval Office. The Reconciliation option, some may argue, is the way out of this box. However, historically, reconciliation, a process by which a vote on an issue differing between the House and Senate can be obtained on a simple majority vote in the Senate, nearly always favors the Senate's version of the reconciliation bill. Since, the Senate's version coming out of its Finance Committee contains no Public Option, this argument fails to hold water or, a way out of the Catch-22 for Pres. Obama, or the Democratic Party.
There will likely be no more challenging a decision Pres. Obama will ever face during his presidency, than how to decide this veto or sign issue for health care reform. Many voted for Obama based on his education and intelligence. We shall soon see if his education and intelligence are creative enough to invent a solution to this Catch-22 he now finds his presidency embedded in. One however, must objectively admire his political courage for taking on this third rail of politics issue where others would not dare to, before and after Bill Clinton's first term.