President Barack Obama's prime time press conference having done little to reassure a wavering public, it seems the Democrats hope to create a national healthcare system may once again have slipped out of out reach. The president agrees that his timetable has been thrown off and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says they won't take up the issue before the recess despite the fact that he has a filibuster-proof majority of Democrats behind him. The committee process in the House has ground to a standstill, with the less liberal "Blue Dog Democrats" almost in rebellion against House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., over the cost of the so-called tri-committee health care proposal.
Privately, the word is moving through Washington that the White House is prepared to abandon the idea of the public option that is causing so much concern, particularly in the medical community, which is not likely to endorse anything that leads to further federal price controls on healthcare.
Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., claims to have the votes to pass a package of legislation—and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel insists Congress will vote on health care reform next week before it adjourns for the August recess—things look very bad, with the majority growing more desperate as the days pass.
A clear sign of their growing desperation is the way in which the Democrats are censoring the GOP's official communications to their constituents. On Thursday Roll Call reported the majority party is "preventing Republican House Members from sending their constituents a mailing that is critical of the majority's health care reform plan."
At issue is this chart—
—developed by Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee at the direction of Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Tex., which the majority claims is inaccurate. Brady labeled the criticism, delivered in an eight-point memo, "laughable," saying the chart "depicts their health care plan as their committees developed it."
At the same time comes word from Rep. John Carter, R-Tex., that the same franking commission that is causing problems for Brady's chart won't let Carter use the words "government-run heath care plan" in a recording to be used to start a telephone town hall meeting. "What we proposed as language was as follows, 'House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan,'" Carter told a conservative publication. "Our response from Franking was, 'You cannot use that language. You must use, 'The House majority unveiled a public option health care plan,' which is Pelosi-speak or 'just last week the House majority unveiled a health care plan which I believe will cost taxpayers...'"
Republican staffers say this kind of censorship of the minority by the majority is almost unheard of on Capitol Hill, certainly during the years the GOP was in power. Moreover, they say, it is a clear sign that the Republicans are, for the moment, winning a fight once thought unwinnable. Rather than get them down, they are taking the efforts to suppress their message as a badge of effectiveness.