Just 10 days into the Obama administration, there are signs that comprehensive health care reform might be put off until next year. And that the partisan and ideological differences that stalled prior reform efforts may again rear their heads.
Reporting on yesterday's Senate vote to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Washington Post notes that, "The rancorous debate - on a program that once basked in bipartisan popularity - raised doubts about whether the two parties can unite to pass broader health reform later this year, several moderate Republicans said."
And Congressional Quarterly reports that House majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has predicted that health care reform might be delayed until 2010. Other key lawmakers, including Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), chair of Ways and Means' health subcommittee, have said the same.
2010 will be an election year, with all 435 seats in the House of Representative and a third of the Senate up for grabs. Typically, election years tend to harden partisan differences, making it less likely that controversial issues will get through.
Before deciding to delay, President Obama and his congressional allies should consider that they are riding an unprecedented wave of public support for health care reform.
A whopping 90% of voters rated health care reform as the either the "highest" or a "higher but not the highest" priority for the new president and Congress, according to a January 16 ABC-Washington Post poll.
Who knows if the public will feel the same a year from now? Who knows if President Obama will still have the political mojo to get it done?
President Obama has an enormous opportunity - perhaps the greatest of any President - to achieve comprehensive health care reform, leading to health coverage for all.
But as the saying goes, he needs to strike while the iron is hot.
Today's question: Do you think health care reform can wait until next year?