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'Kill The Bill' Debate Rages

First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:00 PM ET

In a "Special Comment" Wednesday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann agreed with former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean that the Senate health care bill, as it currently stands, should die.

"We have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat without a war," Olbermann said. "This is not health, this is not care, this is certainly not reform ... The 'men' of the current moment, have lost to the 'mice' of history. They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill just for the sake of a big-stage signing ceremony."

Olbermann argued that without the Medicare buy-in or the public option or other reforms taken out of the bill, the health insurance mandate will just force people to buy expensive and exploitative plans. Calling Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) a "senatorial prostitute," Olbermann also criticized President Obama for not providing "the leadership his office demands."

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Meanwhile, Dean continued to pursue his argument in a Washington Post op-ed.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, on the other hand, says progressives shouldn't take out their anger at President Obama by torpedoing the health care bill.

[T]he truth is that health care reform was probably doomed to be deeply imperfect. As Ezra Klein pointed out a few weeks ago, we're basically in a hostage situation: progressives really, really want to cover the uninsured, while centrists whose votes are needed can take it or leave it. So the centrists have a lot of power -- which in the case of Joe Lieberman means the power to double-cross and indulge his pettiness.


Now, in a hostage situation there are times when you have to just say no -- when giving in, by encouraging future hostage-takers, would be worse than letting the hostages perish. So the question has to be, is this one of those times? I don't think so, given the history: as Kevin Drum points out, health reform has come back weaker after each defeat. I'd also point out that highly imperfect insurance reforms, like Social Security and Medicare in their initial incarnations, have gotten more comprehensive over time. This suggests that the priority is to get something passed.

By all means denounce Obama for his failed bipartisan gestures. By all means criticize the administration. But don't take it out on the tens of millions of Americans who will have health insurance if this bill passes, but will be out of luck -- and, in some cases, dead -- if it doesn't.

Likewise, Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum writes:

When big legislative efforts go down in flames, they almost never spring back onto the calendar anytime soon -- and that's especially true when big healthcare bills fail. It didn't happen in 1936, it didn't happen in 1949, it didn't happen in 1974, and it didn't happen in 1995. What makes anyone think it will happen in 2010?


If healthcare reform dies this year, it dies for a good long time. Say what you will about the Democratic leadership, but Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer all know this perfectly well. So do John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. (Boy do they know it.)

On the White House blog, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer pushed back on the idea Olbermann and other angry progressives are advancing -- that this bill is a dream for insurance companies. "The insurance industry has been leveraging its considerable resources in a ferocious effort to defeat this bill ... because this bill will finally wrest power away from the insurance industry and put it in the hands of American consumers," he wrote, listing the legislation's reforms.

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Filed by Rachel Weiner  |