Thursday, July 16, 2009
By Sam Stein A Democratic-endorsed health care bill will pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate this month, one of the White House's main Republican critics in Congress acknowledged on Thursday morning. In an appearance on MSNBC lamenting the type of health care legislation currently being pushed by Democrats in the House, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) made an admission that seems to go against the current conventional wisdom. "We'll get [a health care bill] through the House and Senate this month," he said, defying the usual predictions heard from leading Republicans or skeptical Democrats. Hoekstra would add that it is unlikely that legislators would be able to have a bill on the president's desk before the August recess. But the White House's own timetable doesn't call for that. "We've known for years that we were going to reach this fork in the road where we were either going to reform health care, we were going to provide more options to individuals, more affordable options for individuals to choose their health care, or we were going to create a government-run health care where the government would be making those decisions for us," Hoekstra said. "President Obama, the Democrats in the House and the Senate, have clearly chosen the government-run option. That is why they're in such a hurry to move this program through the House, through the Senate, and get it to his desk." Hoekstra's admission that the two chambers of Congress are likely to pass their respective health care bills within the next month is one of the few times that a lawmaker has pulled back the curtain to reveal exactly where the legislative process currently stands. Passage in the House and Senate would set the stage for reconciling the separate bills in conference committee once the August recess is over. One of the options at the president's hand is the bill recently unveiled by the House, which has become the preference for progressives. That approach won a major endorsement from The New York Times editorial page on Thursday. While the Senate continues to struggle over its approach to health care reform, House Democratic leaders have unveiled a bill that would go a long way toward solving the nation's health insurance problems without driving up the deficit. It is already drawing fierce opposition from business groups and many Republicans. This is a bill worth fighting for. The bill would require virtually all Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. And it would require all but the smallest businesses to provide health insurance for their workers or pay a substantial fee. It would also expand Medicaid to cover many more poor people, and it would create new exchanges through which millions of middle-class Americans could buy health insurance with the help of government subsidies. The result would be near-universal coverage at a surprisingly manageable cost to the federal government.