Senate Passes Health Care Reform

Sorry for the late posting; I spent much of today traveling.  It is the season, after all.

Anyway, as expected, the Senate passed the health care reform bill early this morning.

The 60-39 vote exactly mirrored last night’s cloture vote; once again, Jim Inhofe (R-OK) was the single absentee Senator.

Now the House and Senate versions of the bill will have to be reconciled in a conference committee, and then that bill will have to be passed by both houses of Congress.

Unsurprisingly, the GOP is still trying to delay the final passage of the bill–Roll Call reports that they’re blocking Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempts to name the Senators who will sit on the conference committee.

Because of the GOP’s obstructionism and delay tactics, the debate over health care reform has become the second-longest debate in American history–the 25-day-long debate on health care reform is only surpassed by the 26-day-long debate on whether or not to enter World War I.

Some Republican Senators, though, seem to be throwing in the obstructionism towel–as James Inhofe, the absentee Senator on the last two major health care vote, recently said:

“I can assure you the vast majority of the [Republican] conference was on my side saying we’ve had all the fun we’re going to have.”

Hopefully more of Inhofe’s colleagues will see the light.

31 million Americans who currently lack coverage will receive it because of this bill. Our deficit will be reduced by more than $130 billion in the first ten years alone. Millions of people will get federal subsidies to help them purchase better health care coverage.

Merry Christmas, America.

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What’s Next For Health Care Reform

The short version: GOP obstructionism, an around-the-clock schedule and a possible Christmas Eve vote.

The long version:

Sen. Jim DeMint said Thursday he is prepared to use every procedural tool to delay a vote on the Democratic healthcare legislation.

That’s not surprising–the GOP just tried to force the Senate to read the entirety of the 767-page Sanders amendment, a farce that only ended when Sen. Sanders pulled his amendment from consideration.

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Why We Need Better Democrats

Ezra Klein writes:

To move the process forward, Reid had three options. The first, many would say, was reconciliation. But that would have required going back to the committees to refashion a reconciliation bill, and going back to the House of Representatives so it could craft a reconciliation bill, and then going back through the votes. There wasn’t time for that, and even if there was, throwing the process so far back onto itself would have been an enormous risk.

The next was to cut a deal with Olympia Snowe. But Snowe had made it clear that part of any compromise with her was a deceleration in the bill’s momentum. “The more they try to drive this process in an unrealistic timeframe, the more reluctant I become about whether or not this can be doable in this timeframe that we’re talking about,” Snowe told reporters. “There’s always January.”

That left Joe Lieberman. And Lieberman’s price for signing onto the bill was the destruction of the public option and, unexpectedly, the Medicare buy-in provision. There would be no triggers, no opt-outs, no compromises. Lieberman swung the axe and cut his deal cleanly, killing not only the public option, but anything that looked even remotely like it. Some on the Hill remain worried that Lieberman will discover new points of contention in the coming days, as they believe he had signaled that he wouldn’t filibuster the Medicare buy-in. They worry whether his word is good. But assuming it is, he can provide the 60th vote Reid needs to move the bill by the end of next week, and keep health-care reform on some sort of schedule.

[Emphasis mine]

We all knew that the final health care bill was not going to be what progressives wanted because, unfortunately, the United States Congress just isn’t that progressive.

And maybe, no matter what, certain parts of the bill never would have made it–perhaps if it weren’t one Senator demanding cuts it would have been another.

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NV-SEN: Harry Reid And The Weak Tea Effect

Politico reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) continues to face weak support back home, and trails both of his leading Republican opponents, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll released today.

Even as Reid has been airing a number of television ads highlighting his clout in the Senate and work saving jobs back home, the poll shows a near-majority of Nevada voters still view him unfavorably. Reid holds just a 38 percent approval rating – the exact same total as the last Mason-Dixon poll in October – with 49 percent disapproving.

Reid trails former Nevada Republican party chairwoman Sue Lowden by 10 points, 51 to 41 percent, and also trailed businessman Danny Tarkanian by a six-point margin, 48 to 42 percent.

[Emphasis mine]

This is exactly what happened to Tom Daschle in 2004–weak leadership creates the appearance of weakness, and nobody wants to be represented by a weak Senator.

Reid has repeatedly bent over backwards to make conservatives happy, yet he’s more unpopular than ever among his constituents.

Reid would probably see a bump in the polls if he stopped capitulating and started playing hardball, both with the Republicans and some of the more obstinate members of his caucus.

Heck, a shot of spine certainly couldn’t hurt Reid at this point–not with his polling in the gutter like that.

GOP Wants To Put Health Care Amendments Behind Closed Doors

Earlier, the RNC put out a video hitting Democrats for crafting health care reform ‘behind closed doors.’

House Minority Leader John Boehner also portrayed health care proceedings as being ‘behind closed doors.’

As did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And yet, this doesn’t surprise me:

On the Senate floor yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made a request on behalf of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) that senators proposing amendments to the health care bill place the text of their amendments online. Immediately following Reid’s request, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) took to the floor to object to the transparency proposal.

[Emphasis mine]

So, whenever Republicans try to accuse Democrats of putting health care reform ‘behind closed doors,’ remind them whose party tried to make the process more transparent and whose party objected to that.

BREAKING: Senate Health Care Bill Revealed

Tonight, the Senate Democratic leadership revealed their version of the health care reform bill.

The Congressional Budget Office has already scored the legislation. Their findings:

  • It will cost $849 bn over the first decade.
  • It will reduce the deficit by $127 bn in the first decade and by $650 bn in the following decade.

Here are more details about the bill:

  • It contains the public option with a state-by-state opt-out provision.
  • It establishes health insurance exchanges.
  • It rejects the anti-choice Stupak amendment by stipulating that at least one plan in the health insurance exchange must offer abortion coverage and one plan must not.
  • It authorizes the HHS Secretary to audit those plans to ensure federal funds are not being used for abortion.
  • It taxes ‘Cadillac’ insurance plans but gives exceptions to high cost-of-living states and to workers in high-risk jobs, such as coal miners.
  • It will cover 94% of Americans, including 31 million of the currently-uninsured.
  • It achieves nearly $1 trillion in cost savings within the health care system.

It’s not a perfect piece of legislation, but considering the circumstances Harry Reid pretty much hit one out of the park here.

I expect the bill to do well–it contains significant health care reform but grants enough concessions to win over conservatives like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. And the fact that it reduces the deficit significantly over the next 20 years should win over the newly-minted deficit hawks like Joe Lieberman (who only seem to care about the debt when a Democrat is in office).

Reid is to file for cloture tomorrow, meaning that this bill could be brought up to a vote as early as Saturday.

Recession Ends; President Obama To Thank (UPDATED)

The Republican recession–the longest and worst economic downturn since the Great Depression–is officially over:

The U.S. economy expanded in the third quarter after shrinking for four consecutive quarters, marking an apparent end to the worst recession since World War II. But the recovery is expected to be slow and painful, as companies shed jobs and credit remains tight.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 3.5% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the quarter ended in September, a rise that leaned heavily on government spending. Some of the largest components of growth came from spending on cars and house building — two areas propped up by federal programs.

But wait, there’s more:

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