Category Archives: Congress

Does the Senate Have the Guts to Pass Healthcare Reform?

This past weekend’s vote to begin debate in the upper House was heartening, but anyone who follows politics knows it’s the first skirmish in a long battle. Credit ought to be given to Majority Leader Harry Reid for having the guts to see the first step through.

I have been critical of his leadership in the past, but I take it all back (can you do that in one post?). Harry Reid came through like a champ, not like some of his colleagues, and I’m not talking about Republicans. You don’t expect them to have any heart when it comes to providing quality affordable care to millions of Americans for whom that’s just a pipe dream now.

senator-harry-reid

I’m talking about  a few Senate Democrats, and that independent who dares to caucus with them. Joe Lieberman should have been tossed out on his ear the day he addressd the Republican National Convention on behalf of John McCain. Now he couldn’t wait until the last echoes of Saturday’s vote to allow debate to go on tv and try to eviscerate the public option. “If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor,” says the Senator from Connecticut. Ben Nelson of Nebraska isn’t much better.

What they’re saying is the next step, after a lot of contentious debate, may be for opponents of the bill to filibuster.  At that point, the only recourse may be the complex and misunderstood procress of reconciliation. Trust me, it’s not nearly as benign as it sounds. Suffice to say that’s how Bush got his two tax cuts through, but would it work for healthcare reform?

Reconciliation is about the only way you can get a bill through the Senate without the 60 votes necessary to bring it to the floor. That is, bypassing the usual obstructive devices, like the filibuster. The jury is still out of whether the health bill fits the criteria necessary to be eligible for reconciliation. Absent that, Harry Reid will have to find a couple of Republicans who will go along with the overwhelming majority of Democrats to get this thing done.

This is usually the cue for political junkies to look to the two senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Snowe, however, has as big a problem with the public option as Lieberman does. Make no mistake. A bill without a public option isn’t acceptable, nor should it be to President Obama (we’ll see).

So you tell me. Does this Senate have the guts to pass a healthcare reform bill with a public option?

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How Would You Put Americans Back to Work?

First and foremost, pay no attention to the gyrations of the stock market. The nation is still hurting, and a big reason is that not enough people have been able to find work. Consider this. In December of 2007, just two years ago, there were 1.7 applicants for every available job. Last month, that number jumped to 6.1.

The House is currently trying to figure out what to do about this. Those people who elected Barack Obama and gave both the House and Senate Democratic majorities are getting antsy. That’s not a good place to be with midterm elections on the horizon. But what to do?

There are a number of proposals on the table. Some lawmakers want to see a second stimulus enacted. Trouble is, no one, least of all the White House, sems to know how many jobs were really created or maintained from the last one. You can probably count a second stimulus as DOA, at least for now.

There are calls for some type of incentive for employers to hire new people. They range from a tax credit, to government funding of health benefits, to a straight payment of up to $3000 to any employer who hires new workers. Congress backed away from these incentives when they were brought up before because they worried employers would game the system (who, those capiatins of free enterprise? Never!!!).

Still others want to see some form of government make woprk program similar to the WPA or CCC during the Great Depression. Cost would be a big impediment here. Moderate Democrats would have the same objections they had to healthcare reform. And the Republicans? Suffice to say that anything that they see as hurting President Obama, like high unemployment, is a good thing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging caution, even in the face of mounting pressure to get something done. To pay for jobs creation, some have argued for using unspent financial bailout money, while others say new fees on securities transactions would make Wall St. foot at least part of the bill.

While out and out jobs creation sounds wonderful, Democrats in both houses of Congress have to be mindful of the political minefield any proposal would have to navigate. So as the House leadership takes its time in coming up with a plan, they must also balance fiscal prudence with an urgent need to act. Fewer and fewer Americans are buying the notion of a recovery, either now or in the near future.

So what would you do to put the unemployed back to work?

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Sex & Lies. Can a Scorned Husband Bring Down a US Senator?

In the television series “The Good Wife”, a woman has to deal with her politically powerful husband going to jail for sexual impropriety. But what happens when in real life the shoe is on the other foot?

Some of you may remember the tawdry affair involving Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign and his dalliance with a staffer. Well, the staffer’s husband in on the warpath, apparently in an effort to shame him into resigning.

Darlene Ensign and Senator John Ensign

Darlene Ensign and Senator John Ensign

Doug Hampton has been interviewed by, among others, the New York Times and ABC’s “Nightline”, and he shows no sign on slowing down. I’m not sure you can blame him. His wife Cindy carried on the affair with Ensign despite the fact that they were family friends. Both worked for him, even as he was a member of “The Promise Keepers”, that group of ultra-religious conservative men who purport tolive more pious lives than the rest of us.

Hampton alleges that Ensign may have engaged in illegal conduct in paying his wife $25,000 in severance after the affair ended. If that money wasn’t properly reported to the Federal Election Commission, Ensign could face a felony charge. Beyond that, it must be downright embarrassing to have this guy dogging your every move.

It also creates a bit of a problem for the Republican Party. Five months after the Ensign affair was exposed, the GOP thought the whole thing was pretty much done with. They’ve since trained their sights on deposing Ensign’s Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It looks like they think if they don’t say anything about Ensign, the whole thing will just blow over.

Some will argue Doug Hampton’s crusade is nothing ore than that of a cuckolded husband getting even. After all, he and Cindy (or is it Cynthia?) remain married, as do Ensign and his wife. However, John Ensign was the guy who led the charge after fellow Republican Larry Craig was caught up in that bathroom sex sting. Craig stuck around as well.

Funny, you don’t hear the same chest thumping about John Ensign that you hear about Charles Rangel. Like Rangel, Ensign is being investigated by his body’s ethics committee. Almost no one is demanding he step down from the Finance or Homeland Security committees. In fact, the only person making a fuss is Doug Hampton. The question now is whether the Republicans’ wall of silence will make his quest a moot point.

What do you think? Will Doug Hampton, husband scorned, have any impact on the career of Sen. john Ensign? You tell me.

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