Congress: Where Laws are Written

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The Hill has a disappointing (in terms of its content, the journalism is good) article about congressional Democrats being not-so-enthusiastic about the ambitious health care reform plans from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This is one of several reasons why I've been unable to get too worked up about the superiority of Clinton's health plan -- in my assessment what Clinton is proposing isn't ambitious enough on the merits, while Obama's less ambitious plan is still more ambitious than what's legislatively feasible.

Various legislators' concerns about cost also remind us of the dog that should be barking louder in the domestic debate -- the budget. Insofar as the next president intends to pursue a serious program of deficit reduction, it's just not going to be possible to enact a very ambitious agenda of new programmatic spending -- it won't be politically possible to raise taxes by a sufficient amount to do both. John Edwards clearly marked himself out as someone who was willing to put deficit concerns aside for his programs, but neither Clinton nor Obama have followed him down that path. But in context, a promise to reduce the deficit amounts to both candidates having their fingers crossed behind their backs when they talk about substantial new spending on health care, education, or anything else.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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