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Please know a little something about Texas before you write about Texas

David Broder packs an awful lot of ignorance into these two sentences of his bizarrely hostile column about the Senate’s health care reform bill and the opt-out compromise.

If a health care reform with an opt-out provision were to become law this year or next, one of the first states you might expect to exempt itself would be Texas. Republicans now control the governorship and both houses of the Legislature, and the state had no trouble rejecting candidate Barack Obama.

First, as surely Broder does not know, the next time the Legislature convenes will be January of 2011. As such, if a bill gets signed before the end of the year as some important Democrats expect, it would be at least a year before Texas could take any action. (Actually, it will likely be much later than that; more on that in a moment.) And of course, when the Lege next convenes, it may well have a Democratic majority, and there may well also be a new Governor. So I wouldn’t take Broder’s bet just yet, as the conditions may well be very different.

(Yes, Rick Perry could call a special session on this if he really wanted to. For a variety of reasons, I doubt he would, but I admit you never know with him. Be that as it may, I’m quite certain Broder knows nothing about this, either.)

Of course, 2011 may be too soon for any state to act on the opt-out provision. Perhaps Broder should spend a few minutes chatting with his colleague Ezra Klein, who is far more informed about what is actually in the bill. Or he could just listen in on one of Klein’s online chats, where he would have discovered the following:

The House bill has a national public option that will set rates in the same way private insurers do (negotiating with providers). The Senate bill has a national public option that works the same way as the House’s, save that it has an opt-out feature starting in 2014.

Emphasis mine. First, the House version of the bill has no opt-out provision; that was strictly a Senate invention, and as such it may not make it into the final bill at all. Second, the Senate provision doesn’t kick in till 2014, by which time I presume that we’ll all be obsessing about something else. But even if not, for Texas that would mean our first crack at it would be in 2015, after yet another gubernatorial election – who knows, to opt out or not to opt out might even be an issue in that election – and three legislative elections. Who knows what the landscape will look like then?

I keep mentioning the Legislature because apparently that’s what it would take to actually opt out. Back to Ezra:

East Lansing, Mich.: One thing I don’t get about the state opt-out plan is how exactly does a state decide?

Why would it be better to create the exact same fight going on right now in D.C. but 50 times?

Ezra Klein: What I’m hearing is that both houses of the legislature would have to vote to opt out, and the governor would have to sign it. At the end of the day, I think very few states will actually opt out, because I don’t think people will still be yowling about the public option come 2014. Once the controversy of this moment goes, I don’t believe it will come back.

Again, you’d think Broder would want to acknowledge that fact, assuming he’s aware of it. The point here is that even in Texas, actually opting out would be difficult to do, even if we continue to have an all-Republican government. There are many ways to kill a bill, and if the two-thirds rule continues to exist in the Senate, that would present a significant obstacle.

And believe it or not, the Republicans in the Texas Lege are not as monolithic as the ones in Congress. SB1569, the bill to modify Texas’ unemployment insurance laws so that the state would have been eligible to accept the unemployment stimulus funds that Governor Perry so famously rejected, passed the Senate and had the votes to pass the House had it not been for the end-of-session chubfest that killed the voter ID bill. Perry would have vetoed it had it passed, and that veto would have stood up, but my point is that the Republican-controlled Legislature did not see eye to eye with him on this. Again, I’m sure Broder knows nothing of this.

We don’t really know yet what the bill that passes the Senate will look like, or what the conference committee version will look like. There may be an opt-out provision, or there may be something else; there may even be the Olympia Snowe “trigger” provision that is the apparent purpose of Broder’s column. All I’m saying is that if you’re going to use Texas as evidence to argue against a bill, it would be nice if you knew something about what the bill contains, not to mention knowing something about Texas politics.

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One Comment

  1. joe says:

    Excellent, excellent response to Broder. Good job Kuff