“…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
    
Charles Dickens never met U.S. senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. But he may have inadvertently captured the partisan spirit of the U.S. healthcare reform debate when he published his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” with its famous introduction, 150 years ago.
    
Democrat Chuck and Republican Kay made clear on NBC’s Today show how many in their respective parties see the sweeping overhaul legislation that reached the U.S. Senate floor over the weekend. And by the sound of things, Washington could be two different cities. 
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Chuck seemed to present healthcare reform as a vehicle for economic salvation: “The future of the country depends on getting something done or the government will go broke, private businesses will go broke and people will go broke.”  

Or could reform lead in that other direction?    

Here’s Kay: “We are in a jobless situation in our country, an economic crisis. You are going to put taxes and mandates on business that are going to make that situation even worse. One in 10 people in America today do not have a job. Now you’re putting mandates and taxes on every individual who doesn’t have healthcare and every business that we want to ask to hire people. And yet you’re putting taxes and mandates on them that makes this unaffordable. This is a terrible idea at this time.” CONGRESS JUDGES
    
Of course, partisan differences will mean little if Democrats can retain the same 60-vote, Republican-filibuster-proof sense of community that got the bill to the floor in the first place.
    
Chuck seems confident: “We will come together for this reason. The healthcare system is broken in this sense: Medicare will be broke in seven years, private insurance doubles every six years (and) tens of millions will lose it. If we don’t do anything, that is the worst situation. And we have a good bill that cuts costs, reduces the deficit and covers more people.”
    
Either way, it’s bound to be one dickens of a debate. 

Photo credits: Reuters/Chip East (Schumer); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Hutchison)