The New York Times’ Joseph Berger watched Face the Nation yesterday and reported that Senator McCain has reached across the aisle to offer a bipartisan way forward on health reform. McCain told Bob Schieffer that “we’d be willing to sit down and start over from the beginning with genuine negotiations,” adding that “there are things we can agree on.” Even with Scott Brown’s victory last week, McCain knows that Republicans have only 41 votes, and that an all-Republican bill is not going to happen, so he is presumably sincere in his offer to work together with the Democrats to craft a new bill.
Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for Senator Durbin to slap down McCain’s offer, rejecting the notion that the Democrats have closed the door to Republicans in the process. Durbin made the argument that because the Democrats have accepted Republican amendments during the legislative process, this proves that they “have kept the door open.”
Durbin is making the mistake of confusing amendments, many of which are technical, with a serious discussion of the bill’s basic architecture. McCain is not looking to offer amendments after the bill’s structure is hammered out behind closed doors. He is instead offering to work together on creating a bipartisan bill. In spurning McCain’s offer, Durbin is insisting on maintaining the same process that led to the Democrats’ embarrassing loss in Massachusetts last week.
There probably is a path forward for some kind of bipartisan bill that included, as McCain said, popular ideas such as medical-malpractice reform, letting individuals purchase insurance across state lines, and refundable tax credits to let people purchase health insurance on their own. But it does not sound as if Durbin or his fellow members of the leadership are ready to start talking about it.