A bad health bill now is far better than no bill at all

Much has been made of the concessions made to Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut in an effort to round up the 60 votes needed to pass a health care bill over the nearly unanimous opposition of the Senate’s 40 Republicans.
First, Lieberman demanded that the bill contain no option for a public insurance program to compete with private insurance companies. Given that assurance, he then said he couldn’t vote for a bill that would allow lower-income Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 to buy into the Medicare program. OK, senator, if that’s the way you feel, there will be no expansion of Medicare.
What gives Sen. Lieberman the power to demand such basic changes in the bill is simple arithmetic. They need his vote to get a bill passed into law.
And, yes, it is reasonable for President Obama and the Democrats to knuckle under. Reasonable because if it were not Sen. L, it most probably would be one of the other wavering moderates who would say they must have a weaker bill or would withhold support.
Reasonable, because it is very important to pass a bill and to pass it this year.
It must be passed this year because there will be congressional elections next year. The closer it gets to November 2010, the more difficult it will be to pass history-changing legislation.
Reasonable, primarily, because once a bill which extends health insurance coverage to millions of Americans is passed, there will be no going back. From that point forward, Congress will not debate whether to have a federal health care program. The debate will be over how to make the existing program better, more efficient, less expensive. That’s why an imperfect bill the president can sign this year is much, much better than no bill at all.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.