In crafting health care legislation, the Obama White House may have "over-learned the lesson of the Clinton years," giving too much deference to Congress when presidential leadership is needed, Robert Reich said on Sunday.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," the former Clinton administration labor secretary and his co-panelists acknowledged that the past week of news on the health care reform front was not a good one for progressive activists. CBO reports showed plans in the Senate costing scads of taxpayer funds with moderate returns in coverage, while Republican opposition to a public plan crystallized. In light of it all, Reich said it was time to revisit the chief component of Obama's legislative strategy: allowing a health care bill to originate in Congress so as to keep the process open and accessible to its 535 members.
"The worry here is that the President may have, and the White House staff may have, over-learned the lesson of the Clinton health care plan, 'fiasco,' which was don't deliver a package to the Hill, let the Hill take ownership," said Reich. "That was true up to a point... Right now the president has got to get involved, twist arms and say if I don't have A, B, and C I'm not going to sign this bill."
"We have reached a tipping point," Reich went on. "And I think the problem is there are so many different bills and so many different conceptions of where the money is going to come from, whether there is going to be a mandate, whether there is going to be a public option, what the public option will look like, that there is no coherence. The president has got to go in there and give it coherence."
The remarks were met with agreement from host George Stephanopoulos, who, like Reich, was in the Clinton White House during the last major, failed push for reform.
Saying that Reich was "right in part about 1993-94," Stephanopoulos noted that when the Clintons started crafting health care reform there were Republicans willing to compromise. But as the process proceeded, those amenable GOPers walked away.
"The politics changed and it wouldn't matter what was in the bill at the end, the Republican Party decided they weren't going to go along with this," he said. "It appears to me this week, you started to see that developing now... It seems to me that the last Republican negotiating right now is [Iowa Sen.] Chuck Grassley."