Opinion

The Wyden-Ryan Medicare reform approach is worth a serious look

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Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
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      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Among the most hypocritical aspects of certain purist Democrats who call themselves liberals is their willingness to attack any Democrat who veers even slightly from liberal orthodoxy.

Sadly, their attacks almost always turn personal, substituting name-calling for thoughtful analysis of the facts.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden is one of the Senate’s leading progressives, with a voting record on every major issue defining liberalism that is second to none.

Yet he has also been a target of attack by purist liberals — because he has shown a willingness to mix liberal approaches (relying on government to assure social equity) with conservative principles (relying on private market competition and individual choices) to achieve traditional progressive social goals.

In 2010, Wyden introduced the Healthy Americans Act (HAA), co-sponsored by Utah conservative Sen. Bob Bennett.

It combined a commitment to national healthcare coverage and the individual mandate with allowing everyone to cash out their employer-provided insurance to exercise their choices to purchase insurance among competing private insurance companies.

The bill quickly attracted broad bipartisan support from leading liberals and conservatives in the Senate.

Had President Obama and the House and Senate Democratic leadership supported that bill, it was estimated it would have attracted 70 or more votes in the Senate and overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the House.

But it never gained traction among the liberal base of the Democratic Party, and the Obama White House never seriously considered it.

Now, in recent months, Wyden has joined with conservative Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) to come up with a Medicare reform proposal that reflects a similar mixture of liberal and conservative principles.

It combines the “Medicare Guarantee” — ensuring all seniors access to Medicare as we know it — with providing seniors an option to purchase private Medicare policies that would compete for their business.