The New York Times and the Washington Post have a pretty profound disagreement this morning on whether or not Obama has a chance to get a health care "reform" proposal through Congress this year, with the Times, predictably, being far more optimistic about prospects for the president's big-government health plan.
In their heart of hearts, few in the Obama administration would have predicted late last year that they would be this well positioned by June to achieve a major victory on health care. As the economy faltered, and attention focused on Wall Street and Detroit, it seemed unthinkable that Congress would be ready to devote the summer of 2009 to the costly proposition of providing health coverage for all, a goal that has eluded presidents since Theodore Roosevelt.
But five months after the inauguration, health care dominates the domestic agenda on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Any package that emerges will preserve the country's private insurance system, at least for now. It could nonetheless bring sweeping changes, requiring that everyone be insured, creating a government health plan to compete with commercial carriers and perhaps taxing employer-provided health benefits.
By contrast, the top two paragraphs of Ceci Connolly's lead story in Friday's Washington Post seem to have come from an alternative universe: "Price Tag of Health Reform Bill Prompts Sparring and a Delay in Congress."
President Obama's hopes for quick action on comprehensive health-care reform ran headlong this week into the realities of Congress, as lawmakers searching for the money to pay for a broad expansion of coverage discovered that it wasn't easy to find and descended into partisan - and intraparty - bickering.
A set of unexpectedly high cost estimates - arcane data that nevertheless carry enormous import in the legislative process - sent shockwaves along Pennsylvania Avenue and forced one key committee to delay action on its bill, probably until after the July 4 recess.