At 8:45 pm MDT last night, the House passed unchanged the Senate version of the health care reform bill, allowing it to go straight to the President for his signature. At 9:30 pm, the House passed a new bill aimed at fixing the more objectionable parts of the Senate’s version. Since all the fixes have to do with funding issues, the bill will be taken up under the Senate’s rules for “reconciliation,” which limit debate to a total of 20 hours, meaning no filibusters and no need to get a 60-vote supermajority. Only 51 senators are needed to pass a reconciliation bill, and more than that number have signed a letter committing themselves to do so. Health care reform will thus become a reality.
“This is not radical change,” as President Obama said, “but it is a decisive step forward.” Since I have been writing this blog, that is what I’ve been advocating – some sort of step away from the dysfunctional state of health care in our country, which provides health care for those who can afford it, much less to no care for those who can’t, and a rapacious, profit-making health insurance industry dependent on the illnesses, injuries, and misfortunes of others.
Notwithstanding predictions to the contrary by the more hysterical opponents of health care reform, it looks like the sun is going to rise after all in the east this morning; as I write this, day appears to be dawning over the Franklin Mountains outside my window. Furthermore, my guess is that democracy as we know it will still be operating throughout the day, and the harsh heel of totalitarianism will not be felt by nightfall, or tomorrow, or any day in the foreseeable future – at least not just because over 30 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance will eventually be able to get it.
In case you missed the 10 hour ordeal on C-SPAN yesterday (since UTEP and Kansas got knocked out of the NCAA tournament in its early stages, I didn’t have anything else to watch), those things about the end of freedom and democracy were actually stated on the floor of the House of Representatives. Then, in a twist that I found highly ironic, one opponent after another, stepped up to the microphone to announce, in these precise words, “I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in opposition to this flawed health care bill.” In what was obviously an orchestrated event to delay the proceedings as long as possible, the Republicans came in waves, using the same wording over and over. Precisely. Just like robots. Like in Orwell’s “1984.”
This week the Senate will take up the reconciliation bill, to fix the unsavory aspects of its version of the legislation that it had to include in order to get the 60 votes before. Be warned that this will not be easy or pretty. The Senate has the capacity to turn any common-sense measure – anything that is good for all the people and not so good for the privileged few who have bought their way to influence – into a messy and still flawed piece of legislation. But this time, it’ll be a lot more fun to watch, knowing that the pompous righteousness of Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the heightened self-importance of Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the self-conscious agonizing by Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and the blatant extortion by Ben Nelson (D-NE) will have no effect. We don’t need your votes any more, thank you very much.
So we could be in for another week or two of tortured rhetoric and chest pounding. Hopefully, the worst of the opponents – the protestors who cursed and spat upon elected representatives of the people on Saturday – will crawl back under their rocks. Maybe some of the aforementioned senators, now freed from their ability to thwart the course of history, will return to being the statesmen that some of them once were. In any event, while the final buzzer hasn’t sounded, no amount of fouling by the opposition is going to alter the final outcome.
Health care reform – highly flawed, inadequate, and imperfect as it is – will finally come to the United States of America.