Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said negotiators from the White House, Senate and House reached a final deal on healthcare reform days before Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts.
....Harkin said “we had an agreement, with the House, the White House and the Senate. We sent it to [the Congressional Budget Office] to get scored and then Tuesday happened and we didn’t get it back.” He said negotiators had an agreement in hand on Friday, Jan. 15. Harkin made clear that negotiators had reached a final deal on the entire bill, not just the excise plans, which had been reported the previous day, Jan. 14.
Kevin Drum (second link) says he's confused about why the compromise, already agreed upon, hasn't simply been executed since then. I can't tell whether he's serious. His first commenter provides a simple answer: 'Lots of Democrats didn't really want to pass HCR but didn't want to be blamed for killing it. Hence the stalling until an excuse arrived to give up.' The second commenter goes even simpler: 'It really seems to be a mystery only to you Drum. Democrats don't actually want to pass health care reform.' Fourth commenter: 'If they wanted to pass it, they would have already.'
That's probably the simplest explanation, on the face of things, but I'm uneasy about it. You can assume that (1) most politicians live to get reelected, (2) it's hard for the Dems to tell whether the HCR bill will be a short-term electoral win, and (3) Reid really is the craven hack the news makes him out (unwittingly) to be; makes sense (alas) that the Dems aren't invested in improving health care policy so much as appearing to do 'the right thing' for the voters. 'Caution' has historically been a good strategy for Democratic congressmen, while the GOP's 'starve the beast' strategy certainly pays off in the short term with its small-government supporters. So everyone's falling back on favoured tactics instead of exploring the possibilities of the moment itself. In which case no monolithic desire (to pass or scuttle the bill) enters the equation. People could just be myopic cowards and we'd get the same effect.