Susan Collins thinks the goal of health care reform is to pass a bipartisan bill:
"On the Senate side, there is more outreach ... to Republicans than was the case during the early days of the stimulus," said Collins, who said she has heard frequently from the administration and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a key architect of the health care effort. "It's in everyone's interest to try to advance a bipartisan bill."
Actually, the goal of health care legislation is to reduce the cost of health care and increase access to health care. By contrast, the goal of bipartisanship is to get Democrats and Republicans to agree with each other. Those are different goals with no inherent connection.
Let's say, for example, that no changes whatsoever are made to the Senate HELP committee's health care bill before it is passed into law. Now, what will be the real-world impact of the health care bill in the following two scenarios?
While I don't know what the exact impact will be in either scenario, I do know that the impact will be exactly the same in both scenarios. This is because legislation doesn't change based on the number of Republicans who vote for a bill. Rather, Republicans change legislation in order to be able to vote for it.
- It is passed into law with every Republican voting for it.
- It is passed into law with no Republicans voting for it.
Bipartisanship has nothing to do with reducing the costs of health care or increasing access to health care. However, bipartisanship has a lot do with providing politicians political cover in the event that a piece of legislation fails to deliver on its ostensible purpose. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi explained this pretty well last year during the bailout:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling Democrats that she will not support President Bush's $700 billion bailout of the financial sector unless there is significant Republican support for the controversial plan.(...)
In the Senate, Republicans have also lined up to oppose their president's bill, which led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to worry that he may not have enough Republican votes to pass the package.
"We need Republican votes to help us," he said. "This is a Republican package and we need Republican votes."
The purpose of bipartisanship is so that, in the event that you pass legislation that is unpopular and / or does not end up working, then it is impossible to take all of the blame for it.
That is the purpose of bipartisanship in health care reform legislation. Not reducing costs or increasing access.