Affordability and accessibility are the buzzwords you hear most often from those pushing health care policy changes. But when it comes to the math of health care politics – a big topic of the Sunday conversation – the debate at the moment centers on “opt out,” “opt in” and “trigger.”
“Opt out,” is the current favorite in the Senate Democratic leadership on the issue of whether health care legislation should include a government option to compete with private insurers. Under this approach, the legislation would create such a government insurance plan, and states that did not want that could “opt out.”
“I think we’re getting very close to getting the 60 votes we need to move forward,” was Sen. Chuck Schumer’s optimistic assessment for a draft proposal that includes the “opt out” approach.
But it is hard to see Democrats getting to 60 without the vote of Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and he made clear Sunday he is OK with states choosing to create a public option of their own – the “opt in” approach – but “certainly am not excited about a public option where states could opt out.”
And talk of a trigger this Sunday mostly triggered liberal Democratic complaints that that approach – favored by the one Republican to back the Senate Finance Committee health care bill – would amount to a gift to insurance companies. “They need competition,” was how Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio put it. “The trigger simply doesn’t work.”
Afghanistan was another Sunday flashpoint, framed around a sober assessment from the challenger in the Afghan presidential runoff. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister now challenging incumbent Hamid Karzai.
Lastly, Sen. Jim Webb tried to steer clear of joining those who suggest the upcoming Virginia gubernatorial election will be a referendum of sorts on the first year of the Obama presidency. But he did concede voter turnout and regional voting patterns will be closely watched to see how the state has changed since Obama turned it from red to blue in 2008.
We Watch the Other Sunday Shows So You Don’t Have To.
Let’s get to the Sound of Sunday, beginning with the health care policy and political divides:
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), on NBC’s “Meet the Press”
“I think we're very close to getting the 60 votes we need to move forward, and my guess is that the public option, level playing field with the state opt-out, will be in the bill.”
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), on CNN’s “State of the Union”
“I certainly am not excited about a public option where states would opt out or a robust, as they call it, robust government-run insurance plan. I'll take a look at the one where states could opt in if they make the decision themselves. I'm a Jeffersonian Democrat. I think the states can make decisions on their own about their own citizens.”
and on his vote:
“I have made no promise. I can't decide about the procedural vote until I see the underlying bill. It would be, I think, reckless to say I'll support the procedure without knowing what the underlying bill consists of.”
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), on CBS’s “Face The Nation”
“When people start talking about having a trigger that might have a public option in two or three years, to me that's an invitation to the insurance industry to manipulate the situation for a couple of years just so they can avoid the trigger and so they can convince members of Congress to delay it again. We need to do something now.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), on CNN’s “State of the Union”
“They need more competition to discipline those companies, to make them more honest, to bring prices down - that's why the trigger simply doesn’t work. We don't give the insurance companies two more years or three more years to get their act together. They've had their chance.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), on CBS’s “Face The Nation”
“Let me just tell you what I'm offended by. Candidate Obama said he was going to have the C-SPAN cameras in, the Republicans in, and the American people would be able to watch these negotiations to find out who was on the side of the pharmaceutical companies and those who were on the side of the people. The fact is, there's been no change. There's a room with a few Democrats in it and some administration officials and they are writing this entire bill. I don't think the American people like that very much.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), on ABC’s “This Week”
“…We know there's nervousness among Democrats over this increasing view that Congress is acting like a teenager with their parent's credit card, not worried about who's going to have to pay the bill.”
It was last Sunday that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said it would be irresponsible for the president to decide whether to add thousands more troops to Afghanistan until he knew whether the United States has a strong Afghan partner.
President Karzai is widely expected to win the Nov. 7 runoff, and his challenger, Dr. Abdullah, said he saw nothing to suggest a new Karzai term would be any different than the current Karzai term – which is to say he sees no reason to believe the corruption and inefficiencies will end.
Afghan Presidential Candidate Abdullah Abdullah, on CNN’s “State of the Union”
“...To call this as clean elections, I think this, with all due respect to Mr. Karzai, it's a bit of ignorance, I should say. To say the least, this is like the fraud of the history. And unfortunately, the government was involved. IEC was involved.”
On whether he’d join a coalition government led by President Karzai
“No. I think I left Mr. Karzai's government some three and a half years ago, and then since then I've not been tempted to – to be part of that government, and my trust in becoming a candidate was not to be part of the same government, part of the same – the same deteriorating situation. “
More debate, too, over the timing of Mr. Obama’s decision: Democrats say the commander in chief is being rightly and smartly deliberative; some Republicans say it is at or past decision time.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), on CNN’s “State of the Union”
“If we don’t support General McChrystal, and in the end, the president, I understand why these are tough decisions, but I think it's taken too long and some people have been hypercritical in suggesting that [President Obama] is waiting until after this election because they have some tough governorships up for election. I hope that's not the case.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), on CNN’s “State of the Union”
“It’s outrageous that any partisan - that partisans in this country would say that the President of the United States is waiting on two governors' races in New Jersey and in Virginia to make a decision in Afghanistan.”
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), on FOX’s “Fox News Sunday”
“If we can quickly get forces in there then perhaps we will not have lost critical time. But as General McChrystal said, time matters and I'm afraid with every passing day we risk the future success of the mission.”
THE LAST WORD
KING: “Is there dysfunction in the Democratic family?”
WEBB: “I don't think there is. I think the template for the election this year is by virtue of turnout realities and this sort of thing a lot different than it was last year. So you can't apply the same model.”
On whether the outcome of the Virginia governor’s race is a referendum on President Obama’s first year in office:
WEBB: “…Virginia is almost a demographic mirror of the country. It's - Northern Virginia is high- immigrant, high-tech. Southwest Virginia is very rural and has had hard times because of the coal industry and the tobacco industry going away. Southside has lost an enormous amount of manufacturing jobs. More than half the jobs there just this decade. The Norfolk/Virginia Beach has the highest concentration of military people in the country. And I'm sure people will be looking at the voting patterns at different parts of Virginia to try to figure out what the lessons are from last year and the crises of this year.”
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday,