This past Wednesday morning, Representatives John Dingell (D, Michigan) and Kevin Brady (R, Texas) sat down for an interview with CNBC’s Becky Quick, Carl Quintanilla and John Harwood. Discussing healthcare legislation, bipartisanship and the law-making process in general, some unintentional revelations of our completely dysfunctional Congress were laid bare and proved stunning.
A few minutes into the discussion, Becky Quick questioned whether or not a “public plan” was needed to achieve the goal of “lowering the cost curve”. Here is Dingell’s response:
“Well, I think a public plan is an absolute necessity, and the reason is, that we have found, that the current pattern of state regulation does not work. There’s no way, whatever, that we can control the costs and the behavior of the insurance companies. And so we’ve got to substitute for that, competition. And the only way we can get that competition that will work is by seeing to it that we do have a public plan.“
Nevermind that many Republicans believe that it is exactly all the state and federal regulation prohibiting competition that is a big contributor to our dramatic health care cost inflation. What was truly remarkable was that even with the admission of a non-working public policy, there has been no call from these same people to repeal it. Rather, a massive new program must be put in place which will correct for the failings of the first one, which will be left in place.
Dingell was also proud of the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that through the inclusion of a public option there would be “an increase the number of persons receiving employer based health insurance by about 2 million people”. Using his number of 46 million uninsured, that’s a little over 4%. Enough said.
But it got better. Minutes later, following a discussion of whether or not there was bipartisan cooperation, Rep. Dingell, elected to the House in 1955, initiated the following exchange:
Rep. Dingell: “One of the problems that exists, and this is a very real one, is that we are engaged now in the public [his emphasis] drafting of legislation. This leads to all manner of unfortunate misunderstandings as to what it is that we are doing.”
Becky Quick: “But you say doing this in ‘public’. That means doing it under the light of day where people can actually see what’s happening?”
Dingell: “Uh, you’re just seeing the unfortunate consequences of public drafting of legislation and it makes a fine mess because people don’t understand the complexities of this.”
Quick: “So it should done behind closed doors…?”
Dingell: “Bismark observed, ‘If you like sausage, or legislation, don’t watch either one made.'”
Carl Quintanilla: “Right, right. We’re watching it get done this time.”
Quick: “I don’t know, I’ve always thought that the openness is something that’s a good thing though, the more people that are involved, the better.”
Rep. Brady: “It is.”
Quintanilla: “That’s assuming that people really understand and have time to pay attention to the detail, right?”
Quick: “I guess it depends on whether you trust what’s happening behind closed doors or not though.”
Brady: “I’ll tell you… We held over 51 Town Hall meetings, the people who came to our Town Hall meetings were knowledgeable, they’d read the bill, they knew health care issues. Their problem is too much of this has been done behind closed doors. They want it to be open. They want their ideas heard. And it’s not.”
At an earlier point in the interview, John Harwood turned to Rep. Brady and said “Are you really going to stand in the way of the Congressman realizing his dream”? Brady calmly ticked off a number of initiatives that Republicans would do instead. But the point is that this isn’t about Dingell’s dream. It’s about doing what will produce the best result, according to the people affected, in the most fiscally responsible manner, which just might include having the government doing a whole lot less than what’s been done thus far.
It would seem that the truth about the nasty rotten sausage that pass for many of our laws, and the factory conditions where they’re produced, are exactly what is getting people worked up and causing them to look more closely over the process. Dingell’s obviously not happy with that (and we can probably count on him never signing on to H.R. 554, requiring that all non-emergency legislation and conference reports receive 72 hours of Internet exposure prior to debate). When people see something disgusting, a common reaction is to recoil and try to ensure that they don’t see it again. Better yet, they act to find the cause of the disgust and fix it.
It’s safe to say that we’d all be better off by ramping down the production lines at the sausage factory that is the US Congress.