FROM POLITICS DAILY
Time for a reality check. If there is to be a comprehensive health care deal, it won't happen until the absolute last second -- probably after the clock has run out.
The president's deadline for action in the waning days before Washington goes dark in August is a contrivance, although we do have to give him credit for keeping a straight face while making that demand.
Let's assume for argument's sake that Congress actually came up with something in legislative form before we heard the giant sucking sound of members evacuating the capital. It would be a placeholder at best -- fiction.
The smart ones will race out to Andrews Air Force Base, where government planes await to whisk them off to junkets at exotic resorts. The conscientious masochists and/or those who face tough reelection battles will head back to their districts and states to get hammered with all the fury that health care profiteers can inflame.
Even when everyone returns in September, there will be a steady diet of posturing and positioning. Any compromise packages that go public will have probably been leaked by someone who wants them killed.
Behind the scenes, lobbyists will be digging in their heels, saying "No way, no how," or something even shorter to anyone who suggests their clients should share in the sacrifice
At some point the negotiations will collapse. The players will storm out of the room and hold angry dueling news conferences to blame everyone else.
That's the sign that progress is being made. Sure as can be, one of them will pick up the phone and propose that last "final offer," which will cause the others to show their "drop dead" cards.
Presto change-o!! Suddenly they will have wheeled and dealed health care reform in the best tradition of our open democracy -- in secrecy.
A compromise will have been reached. Remember that "compromise" has been defined as an agreement where all parties are unhappy, meaning no one will want to be publicly identified with it.
So, when it happens at the very end of the year, after Congress has shut down, we'll need to keep in mind that everyone was dismissed "subject to the call of the chair." The "chair," meaning House and Senate leaders, will drag just enough reluctant members back to approve the legislation with no debate. You can bet it'll happen on a Friday night, the favorite hiding place for those who are dubious about what they're doing. Or embarrassed. On the other hand, it's also perfect timing for the Sunday morning talk/game shows, where all sides can engage in their last sound-bite battles.
This all assumes there will be legislation. The danger of brinkmanship is that sometimes everyone falls off the brink. In this case, they would take health care reform with them.
What we're seeing now, and will see in the months ahead, is window dressing. It'll be a while before we know what's in store for us.