Trouble for Health-Care Reform in the House?

New York Democrat Louise M. Slaughter, who chairs the House rules committee—and, as CNN notes in a non sequitur in her bio line, is the only microbiologist in Congress—announced in a Web op-ed for CNN on Wednesday afternoon that she thinks the Senate version of health-care reform is too weak. She thinks the differences cannot be reconciled in conference committee and the Senate should "go back to the drawing board." Her primary complaints are what you would expect: no public option and harsh anti-abortion provisions (the House bill that Slaughter voted for contained the latter). She also objects to the extent to which insurers will be allowed to charge seniors more under the Senate plan. Slaughter concludes: "It's time that we draw the line on this weak bill and ask the Senate to go back to the drawing board."

This is all very strange. Everyone knew all along that the public option might not make it into the final version, and smart wonks, from President Obama to Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, have been saying for months that the public option is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. As for the seniors: Slaughter would endanger all of health-care reform and risk sticking with the status quo, where older Americans face even more pricing bias than they would under the Senate plan. On abortion, Slaughter is objecting to language that is less stringent than what the House passed. Why not "go back to the drawing board" on that?

Presumably because Slaughter recognizes that this House won't produce a bill that's more progressive as time drags on—so why does she think this Senate will? When I lived in Washington, I knew a Senate aide or two who would shake their heads at the ideological, nonpragmatic, simple-minded clowns who filled the House on both sides of the aisle. I see where they got that impression.

Trouble for Health-Care Reform in the House? | News