Feature

Health care: The post mortem

Following the Senate's dramatic passage of the health bill, commentators reflect on what we've learned<br /><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/24/us/politics/24assess.html"></a>

After 25 straight days of debate, the Senate approved the health care reform bill just after sunrise on Christmas Eve by a vote of 60-to-39. Assuming it is not derailed before being signed into law by Obama, the bill stands as the most comprehensive new piece of social policy since Medicare passed in 1965. As the dust begins to settle in Washington, what are the lessons of this hard-fought political battle?

Lawmaking is not a pretty thing: "Passing legislation, it turns out, is a long and ugly process," says Ezra Klein in the Washington Post. Between compromises with "powerful special interests and decisive senators" and the "trimming of ambitions" to meet budget benchmarks, we're left with "a compromise of a deal of a negotiation of a concession." But for now, this lumbering system is "the only one we've got." And as soon as people begin to realize that "this is what victory looks like," the sooner "this bill will come to feel...like the the historic advance it actually is."
"Winning ugly, but winning"

What's done will be hard to undo: You bet this bill is "an achievement" -- "think how hard you’d have to work to produce a bill that’s equally hated by left and right," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Still, the GOP is looking at a "tall, tall order" to undo the damage. Republicans "would need...60 in the Senate and a Republican in the White House, which ain’t happening anytime soon." But, unfortunately, the longer the bill stays on the books, "the more entrenched [it] becomes in the public imagination." The GOP's best shot could be to get rid of the filibuster and hope to take Congress and the White House in 2012.
"Done and done"

Congress is becoming an ugly, hostile place: The string of party-line votes this week is the "culmination of more than a generation of...polarization of the American political system," says David Herszenhorn in The New York Times. The unprecedented partisanship is accompanied by "a precipitous decline in collegiality and collaboration." The erosion of those qualities in the Senate is accompanied by "a rising influence of lobbying, money, the 24-hour news cycle, and hostilities on talk shows and in the blogosphere." Long-serving senators are noting that the "vitriol" in this fight was "unlike anything they had seen" at the Capitol.
"In Senate health vote, a new partisan vitriol"

It's time for "soul searching" on the right: I must admit, says David Gratzer at Frum Forum, passing health care through the Senate is an "incredible" achievement. That said, the health care bill has its fair share of problems, primarily that it "will worsen the problem of health-cost inflation, not tame it." And the "White House gambled big" in pushing to get this legislation through. Because of that, "Republicans and conservatives will need to do some soul searching and attempt to answer a gut-wrenching question: how did we lose this?"
"Health care: The next battle"

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