The State of Health-Care Reform
The research seems pretty convincing that impressive speeches don’t do much to transform the dynamics of presidential approval. But then, tonight’s speech doesn’t need to do much. And it doesn’t need to do much because health-care reform is in pretty good shape. Bills have now passed four of the five relevant committees. The outlier committee, the Senate Finance Committee, is circulating its outline and seems likely to pass a bill within the next week or so.
At that point, the bills will go to the floor of the House and Senate, where passage isn’t certain but seems pretty likely. And once the bills pass the House and the Senate, final passage of the conference report (the merged bill) is a good bet. And the president’s signature is then a sure thing.
That’s the context for Obama’s speech: It’s sort of health-care reform’s version of the State of the Union. And the State of the Process is strong: The legislative politics of health care are in considerably better shape than August would have suggested or the ongoing coverage has really articulated (in part because the Finance Committee was gummed up until this week).
Obama’s job, then, isn’t all that difficult: It’s bringing public perceptions of the health reform process closer in line with the underlying reality. And that underlying reality is that the bills are fundamentally pretty similar, there’s a fairly high level of consensus, and there are some crucial elements that need to be worked out over the next few weeks, and seem like they will be. The town halls made health-care reform seem chaotic and incomprehensible and disorderly, but at the moment, it’s really anything but. In fact, it’s closer to agreement than it ever has been before.
By Ezra Klein | September 9, 2009; 12:10 PM ET