Starting Over on Health Care Reform

Conservatives are calling for Obama to finally lay out a specific plan

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It often gets lost in the health care debate that, although Obama is clearly the driving force for reform, he hasn't actually laid out a specific plan. Congress has. In fact, various bodies in the House and Senate have laid out a few quite different plans, all of which have been heavily debated in the media--but Obama, likely awaiting Congressional consensus, has yet to articulate his own in great detail. "ObamaCare," as it's often described, is for all intents and purposes a pure hypothetical.

Conservatives are tired of spending all of their time debating (and challenging), say, the Senate Finance Committee's plan, when the White House may end up pushing something different. Leading voices on the right are calling for Obama to spell out his plan so we can collectively evaluate a single, concrete bill rather than a half-dozen possible ones. This idea has turned into something slightly different, however, with quite a few Congressmen, largely opponents of reform, taking it a step further to argue that Congress should abandon its current health reform plan altogether. Thus the call for an Obama plan has quickly generated into an increasingly trafficked meme: "Start Over."

  • A Detailed Plan  Bob Dole argued in the Washington Post for scrapping current Congressional plans and having Obama craft and put forward his own plan. "If I were a White House adviser, I would suggest that the day Congress reconvenes, President Obama's version of reform should be introduced by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate," he wrote. "Health-care reform is the vital issue of our time, and Obama should be out front with his specific plan on this make-or-break issue." Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal agreed, writing, "at the close of a bruising August, one option is to, at last, lay out exactly what Mr. Obama now wants in an overhaul package, and start selling and defending that."
  • Obama's Failed Strategy  Seib derided White House tactics of letting Congress hash out a plan. "The absence of an actual Obama health plan hasn't stopped Republicans from attacking as if there was one anyway and convincing many Americans they are opposed to it," he wrote. "Because he hasn't said precisely what he will and won't accept, Mr. Obama has been in the awkward position of having to defend virtually every idea congressional committees have thrown out." Dole agreed, appealing directly to the White House: "Obama's approval numbers would jump 10 points if Americans knew he was fully in charge," he wrote.
  • Start Over  Bill Kristol has pushed for starting over with a new reform bill. "The only way to pass health reform is first to get rid of the misbegotten efforts now before Congress. The only way to pass health reform is to start over in the fall," he wrote. "The Obama plan wouldn't go into effect until 2013 anyway." Dole made a similar call for a "fresh start." So did Seib, who wrote, "there is now a need to restart the conversation rather than simply continue the argument."

    Starting over is picking up some steam in conservative circles. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) recently said, "They ought to scrap the bill that has been moving through the House of Representatives, that is nothing more than a government takeover of health care, paid for with $800 billion in higher taxes, and we ought to demand the President of the United States to bring forward his own bill." Similar calls have come from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Rep. Heath Shuler (D-North Carolina), Sen. Richard Luger (R-Indiana), Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia), Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Florida), and of course a host of conservative pundits.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.