Jed blogged this earlier:
CONRAD: Look, there are not the votes for Democrats to do this just on our side of the aisle. This is going to require…
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it’s just not possible to have a Democrat-only bill?
CONRAD: No, it is not possible, and perhaps not desirable either. We’re probably going to get a better product if we go through the tough business of debate, consideration, analysis of what we’re proposing…
As Jed points out, it is in fact possible to have a Democratic-only bill, but Conrad is carrying water for the GOP and the insurance lobbyists that have purchased his office:
The real problem is that Kent Conrad doesn’t want it to pass without Republican support, and by unilaterally declaring that without GOP support he (and perhaps a few other Democrats) won’t support health care reform, he is effectively giving the them veto power over the legislation.
If Conrad sticks to his guns, Republicans can just say “no” to health care reform, knowing that with his insistence on a bipartisan bill, Democrats won’t have the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster.
Ultimately, the American people don’t give a rat’s ass about “bipartisanship”. They care about solving our nation’s problems. And contra Conrad, we have seen nothing from the GOP’s side of the aisle to suggest that anything they do will lead to a “better product”. That’s why the voters gave Democrats supermajorities in Congress and the White House in 2008 — to change the way business is done in DC and provide real solutions to our nation’s problems. They didn’t vote for a split congress, and the vote tally wasn’t even close. It was a historic landslide. Obama won Indiana for chrissakes.
Republicans have zero incentive to help Democrats pass meaningful reform. Obama and the Democrats will get all credit for the reform, so why should Republicans anger their lobbyist friends and wingnut base in order to hand Obama a key legislative and political victory? And for the GOP, stopping any expansion of health care goes to the core of their beliefs. Bill Kristol’s famous 1993 memo (PDF) is still quite relevant today:
Any Republican urge to negotiate a “least bad” compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president “do something” about health care, should also be resisted. Passage of the Clinton health care plan, in any form, would guarantee and likely make permanent an unprecedented federal intrusion into and disruption of the American economy — and the establishment of the largest federal entitlement program since Social Security. Its success would signal a rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy…
But the Clinton proposal is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party.
History repeats itself, huh? Republicans can’t afford to have a successful and popular public health care option. Republicans have struggled for generations to try and destroy social security, and yet that government program remains among the most popular and a glaring reminder to the public that yes, government can be a force for good in our lives. A public health care option would multiply that tenfold.
That’s exactly what voters voted for in 2008. Yet Conrad would prefer to ignore the will of the voters, preferring to throw Republicans a lifeline in their efforts to destroy any reform. What the voters refused to offer, Conrad aims to deliver — Republican relevance.