Wednesday, December 16, 2009
What I’d like to see; but what we will see
Health care reform legislation is moving too fast for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), isn’t punitive enough for women who wish to exercise their legal right to reproductive choice for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), and isn’t what Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) says he wants this week.
Take those three senators out of the equation and truly meaningful health care reform would pass out of the Senate in a heartbeat. Even with them sticking to their vows of obstruction, it could still pass once the majority breaks a filibuster that the minority, with the help of the three recalcitrants, seems intent on mounting.
So this is what I would like to see happen.
I would like for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to call their bluff and move to invoke cloture (cut off debate). When cloture fails, I would like for him to let the 40 Republicans and 2 other obstructionists take the floor and start talking.
I would like for Leader Reid and the rest of the Democrats to have the courage to stand on the floor as long as the debate proceeds.
I would like to see Sen. Snowe talk right into the night on Christmas eve, explaining why the attempt to pass a national health care bill first proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt is moving too fast.
I would like to see Sen. Nelson hold forth on Christmas morning about why a woman should be denied the right to use her own money to terminate a pregnancy after she has reached such a difficult decision in consultation with her family, physician, and religious advisor.
And I would like to see Sen. Lieberman spend all Christmas afternoon explaining why he used to be for universal health care but is against it now, why 10 days ago he was open to a Medicare buy-in provision but 5 days ago had decided the country couldn’t afford it even before the CBO makes such a determination, and just in general how gratifying he finds the experience of being THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE WORLD to be.
Then, through Christmas night and the days to follow, I would like to see at least any one of the senators favoring passage to stay on the Senate floor at all times, so that when finally the Republicans and their allies have enraged the country enough by bringing the government to a standstill that they have to relent, a proponent of passage will be on the floor to move for a vote.
That is not what we will see, however.
As of this writing, it looks like what we will see is a senate bill devoid of any public option and devoid of any buy-in. It will probably pass out of the Senate with 60 votes on the 23rd or 24th of December. Every member of Congress will then go home until after New Year’s. In early January, conferees between the House and Senate will meet. The conferees may try to insert an anemic public option of some sort, but that will probably fail. A bill without the public option will pass in the House by a two or three vote margin and in the Senate with 53 or 54 votes total. The President will sign it and claim a victory.
Former Governor and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean is one of my heroes. His steadfast leadership on health care reform has been an inspiration. Thus it is with great reluctance that I find myself in disagreement with him over whether it’s time to kill this bill. I think it is not.
The bill the President will finally sign will be an ugly piece of legislation – far short of what the majority of us want, and totally inadequate for what we need as a country. But it will have some reforms that are more that trivial.
This legislation is no longer about health care; it’s only about health insurance reform, and a weak version at that. But it is reform, and it will help. And most importantly, it represents something well short of the victory that the malignant health insurance industry had hoped for. If for no other reason, that is reason enough to pass it.