Howard Dean's "kill the bill" campaign has already incensed moderate Democrats, as the Wire covers here and here. But the furor is quickly transforming into a Dean-White House fist-fight. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs punched back, as has senior adviser David Axelrod on MSNBC and Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on the White House blog. Now Dean takes to the pages of The Washington Post to persuade Democrats. Here's the spat from the start:
- Opening Blow from Vermont, December 15: Howard Dean tells Vermont public radio that "the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill and go back to the House and start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill ... This [current bill] is not health care reform and it's not close to health care reform." He says 27% of the trillion dollars in the bill "is going to go to the insurance companies' pockets."
- Robert Gibbs Strikes Back, December 16: The White House Press Secretary, in a briefing, retorts that "if this is an insurance company's dream, I think the insurance companies have yet to get the memo ... They've spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation ... I don't know what piece of legislation [Howard Dean is] reading," he adds.
- Dan Pfeiffer: Ditto That, December 16: White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer rehashes Gibbs's point, and adds that "it's also important to remember that, while none of us are shedding any tears for the insurance industry, the primary goal of health insurance reform isn't to punish insurers--it's to give every American the ability to find affordable coverage while controlling the unsustainable cost growth in our current health care system that is crushing families and businesses."
- Dean Returns Fire, Says Bill 'Would Do More Harm than Good,' December 17: "Real reform," writes Howard Dean in The Washington Post, "would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses ... significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these." Dean attacks the "inside-the-Beltway mentality" as the bill nears passage that declares "any bill becomes a victory." This legislation, he declares, "has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care ... I know health reform when I see it, and there isn't much left in the Senate bill."
- Dean Is Wrong, Says Axelrod, December 17: On MSNBC's Morning Joe, Obama's senior adviser calls the attempt to kill the bill "insane." Axelrod says that upon speaking with the White House's "point person on the health care issue," who explained "why he was wrong," Dean "simply didn't want to hear that critique. I saw his piece in The Post this morning, and it is predicated on a bunch of erroneous conclusions."