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Health care top of Congress’s list

Steve Chiotakis Sep 4, 2009

Health care top of Congress’s list

Steve Chiotakis Sep 4, 2009


Steve Chiotakis: In a matter of days, Congress will be picking up where it left off on some high-priority legislation for the Obama administration. This morning, we take a look at what they’ve got on the plate. And joining us with some prognostications is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

Robert Reich: Good morning, Steve.

Chiotakis: So what can we expect when Congress returns next week?

Reich: Well, they’ve got three huge issues: health care, financial regulation and cap-and-trade. Now, most Congresses couldn’t even handle one of these in a session, let alone three. Of course, health care is the biggest and most important in terms of priority, that comes first.

Chiotakis: And speaking of health care, the president speaks about it before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. I mean, what does he expect to accomplish?

Reich: He’s gonna reclaim the intiatives, Steve. The White House was outmanuevered in August. Many members were deluged with constituents’ concerns about health care reform. And with a larger than usual portion of Congress up for re-election next year from districts and stakes, they’re likely to have close races. The president has got to light a fire and get health care done as soon as possible before mid-term election politics take over completely.

Chiotakis: Now, that sounds a lot like hurting cats. How’s he gonna do that?

Reich: It is hurting cats. I expect he’ll be much more specific about what he wants in the bill. Without specifics, opponents will continue to conjure up all sorts of demons. He’ll also reassure the Blue Dogs — those are the conservative Democrats — that the plan will be paid for. And he’s got to calm down relatively new Democratic members from traditionally Republican districts that they can safely vote on the bill.

Chiotakis: So I suspect a lot of deals are gonna be made.

Reich: Oh, yes. I mean, the question for the White House is how much reform the president will need in order to allow him to declare victory. I mean, at the very least, he’s gotta get insurance reforms — no denial of insurance to people with pre-existing conditions and no dropping of coverage because they’re badly sick. Beyond that, requirements that almost all businesses give their employees health insurance or pay into a common fund and that every American buy insurance.

Chiotakis: But you know, we still have these sticking points, right, as far as health care goes. First of all, the public option, this is the government getting directly involved in health care. And then there’s the whole notion of how we’re gonna pay for it. How is all that gonna get resolved?

Reich: Ah, you’ve reached the limits of my crystal ball, Steve.

Chiotakis: All right. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley. Bob, thanks.

Reich: Thanks, Steve.

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