"[T]he Clinton plan was deader than Elvis."
-- SenatorPhil Gramm
By now, everyone knows that Senator Gramm was right. The Clinton plan was dead. The Mitchell bill was dead. In fact, unlike the pop icon Gramm invoked, it is unlikely that you will see any version of comprehensive national health care reform popping into a Dairy Queen in your neighborhood any time soon. There is a general consensus that the issue of comprehensive health care reform was once again derailed and displaced from the national agenda in 1994. Various interpretations of the defeat of the proposals by President Clinton and Senator Mitchell have been posited by political pundits and observers of the political process in Washington. Rovner ( 1995b) has argued that structural features of policy making in Congress played a central role in the 1994 defeat of comprehensive health care reform. Schick ( 1995) contends that health care reform failed primarily because of a misreading of the public mood by proponents of reform. And, Starr ( 1994) has argued that a mix of political forces tended to work in favor of the Republican opposition and cost the advocates of comprehensive reform their best chance for action in decades. In fact, Starr proclaimed "The collapse of health care reform in the first two years of the Clinton administration will go down as one of the great lost political opportunities in American history. It is a story of compromises that never happened, of deals that were never closed, of Republicans, moderate Democrats, and key interest groups that backpedaled from proposals they themselves had earlier co-sponsored or endorsed" (p. 21). Despite Starr's allusion to narrative, all of these explanations failed to address the centrality of discourse and the power that was played out through talk. This chapter will continue to address the actual discourse of the 1994 health care reform debate by focusing upon the deliberation that shapes the debate itself.