“Winning Ugly, But Winning,” is the headline on Ezra Klein’s assessment of the dawn victory today on health care:
…It has cleared five committees. It has come through the House of Representatives. It has been merged into a single bill in the Senate. It has passed through the Senate. No previous health-care reform bill has come anywhere near this far. But there are more milestones left to achieve: The House and Senate need to agree on a bill. That bill has to pass both chambers again. And then the president has to sign the legislation.
Passing legislation, it turns out, is a long and ugly process. God, is it ugly. The compromises, both with powerful special interests and decisive senators. The trimming of ambitions and the budget gimmicks and the worship of Congressional Budget Office scores. By the end, you're passing a compromise of a deal of a negotiation of a concession.
Bad a system as it might be, it's the only one we've got, at least for now. This is what victory looks like. The slow, grinding, ineluctable advance of legislation that looks quite a bit like what you began with, albeit not identical. It's not pretty, and it doesn't necessarily feel like winning is supposed to feel. But this bill will do most of the things supporters hoped it would do: cover about 95 percent of all legal residents, regulate insurers, set up competitive exchanges, pretty much end risk selection, institute a universal structure that we can improve and enhance as the years go on, and vastly reduce both medical and financial risk for families.
It's been a long time since the legislative system did anything this big, and people have forgotten how awful the victories are. But these are the victories, and if they feel bad to many, they will do good for more. As that comes clearer and clearer, this bill will come to feel more and more like the historic advance it actually is…