WILL: I think the Democrats are afraid of failure. But they're much more afraid of their constituents. What they're hearing from their constituency is increasing anxiety about the unknown. And the Republican theory in Senate is simply this: If they get no Republican senators they will loose some Democratic senators. Therefore, Republican unity will drive this.
KRUGMAN: There is strong possibility, I don't think any of us knows for sure, that all of that we're seeing, all of the Sturm und Drang, and all of that is actually just Kabuki; that in the end, the Democrats will come together. What we're seeing is jostling for the shape of the final outcome. And that in the end, everybody will come on board, the Blue Dogs will come onboard, the progressives will come onboard, because of the fear of failure.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what I want to press -- I mean, I don't necessarily disagree on the politics, but it depends on how much has to be given away in these bipartisan negotiations? What price these three or four Republicans are demanding? And that's sort of what I want to press you on. What would you consider a bottom-line victory?
KRUGMAN: You know, there is this jostling, which comes from, "you can't say that in advance". In a way, since I have my own goals on health care, I can't say what my final, you know --what's the least I'll accept, because that then becomes negotiating point.
But the point is -
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what the president is doing, basically.
KRUGMAN: Yes, but you know in the end, I think, I think the Democrats understand that the constituents might be angry over what's in the bill, but they mostly will vote against people they perceive as losers. If the Democrats don't pass this thing, they'll be seen as losers. So, in the end they have to move forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree with that?
HUFFINGTON: But is has been -- it has been a sort of standard process, for all the lobbies, for all those trying to derail reform, to pick the one element that is the central element of reform, and right now I believe it is public option, because it would allow the kind of competition that will put the private insurance on the defensive and not allow them to continue the way they have been. And if that is eliminated, which is very likely, and Tom Daschle, and then Rahm Emmanuel, in a way telegraph that they may be willing to give that up, then it is going to called reform, but it's not going to be real reform.
BROOKS: I don't think that's central. Whatever you think of the public option, it's not going to have a huge cost effect. This is a debate over costs. The only thing that really is big enough to change the provision of health care is getting rid of, or seriously capping, the exemption on health benefits.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that is now clearly back on the table. Senator Conrad told us that this morning.
BROOKS: Right. And most health care economists think it is absolutely essential. And the White House and the chairman on Capitol Hill have been loathe to talk about it. But that, to me, is the core.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How much trouble is that going to cause for the president? Now that it does appear that its creeping back into these negotiations?
BRAZILE: It's a price that nobody wants to see being paid, by the president, or anyone else, because as you well know this is one of those non-negotiables from the Democratic side.