Understanding the Pivot Points

July 20, 2009 7:00 a.m.

This is a critical week for the health reform legislative push, signaled by, among other things, the announcement by the White House that President Obama will be hitting the airwaves aggressively all week. There is such a profusion of information, a good deal of it put forth with the aim of sowing confusion for political reasons. So how do we make sense of it all, how do we understand the critical broad movements in the debate and not get bogged down in the endless detail?

In our editorial meeting this morning, I asked our reporting staff to focus on three pivot points, the pressure points in the conversation that, if they can be isolated and followed, will help us to understand which way the debate is going, who’s winning and losing and most of all who’s controlling the debate.

So here are the three key issues we’re going to be following in every public comment

1) Timeline. Who’s controlling the timeline? Do the White House and the reformers press for bills before the August break or give way to the opponents pushing the agenda of delay?

2) Public option. Particularly, is the White House making it a line in the sand, as Obama seemed for the first time to suggest over the weekend? Or do they continue to play for intentional ambiguity?

3) Aggregate Cost. In many respects, right now this is even more a political issue than a substantive one because of last week’s CBO chief’s comments, which seemed to push all before it late last week.

To be clear, there are numerous complex and very important policy questions not covered here. But that’s not the point of this exercise. We trying to understand the terms of the political debate. And I think if you can get clarity on these three points you’ll have a very good read on what kind of bill, if any, is going to end up on the president’s desk. We’ll be watching. You watch too and ping us when you see key developments.

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