WASHINGTON -- Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) on Tuesday defended his efforts to tinker with health care reform alongside Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass), calling it the one true bipartisan effort to alter President Obama's signature domestic achievement.
The Oregon Democrat, speaking at an event sponsored by the conservative American Action Forum, repeated his past defense that a provision allowing states to essential opt out of the law (provided that they meet minimum standards) is smart, unobjectionable policy.
"This is the only major bipartisan effort in the United States Senate since the health bill was signed. There is no other, with respect to next steps on health reform, except this," said Wyden. "We are going to get hit, there is no question, by folks on the ideological extremes of American politics."
But, he added, "this is the ultimate in a reformer opportunity."
Under the Wyden-Brown provision, states would be able to be granted a waiver from the national health care law as early as 2014 provided that they can insure minimum standards of coverage. Under the original law, that date was 2017.
Wyden, who has always been a bit of an intellectual trailblazer when it comes to the crafting of health care reform, insisted that the proposal would -- or at least, should -- be welcomed by partisans of all stripes. Conservatives who lament the individual mandate (requiring people to have coverage) would have a way to dispatch it, state-by-state. Progressives who want a public option can do the same.
"The theory was that at every step of the way... we have this transformational debate that we hope will lead to real reform, why not encourage people across the country to bring their best ideas to the table?" he said. "I note that for Republicans there are at least 16 states where they have the trifecta -- Republican governorships and legislatures. We invite them to bring their ideas to the plate... I know in Vermont the governor is interested in pursuing a single-payer strategy."
The notion that the Wyden-Brown provision is the one truly bipartisan effort to reform the current health care law is, it should be noted, a bit misleading. It is, perhaps, the most far-reaching effort. But there is some bipartisan consensus that the bill should be revised to eliminate a burdensome tax-filing requirement, even though a vote to do just that failed on Monday evening.