Tag Archives: John McCain

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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Obama on Healthcare – Mission Accomplished? Politics and health

President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress was masterful on several levels, the first being political.

That doesn’t mean it was a triumph for those (like me) who want to see every American have access to quality healthcare. That, however, wasn’t the President’s purpose.

Barack Obama after healthcare reform speech
Barack Obama after healthcare reform speech

He wanted to make his position on reform clearer to many people who spent the summer being whipsawed by reports of death panels and socialism.

Whenever politicians speak these days, I try not to watch cable news coverage of what they’re saying. That means I was one of the few people who was happy Fox News chose not to cover President Obama’s speech. In fact, two minutes before it was scheduled to begin, I turned on C-Span, the one place where I didn’t have to listen to the endless spin that has become virtually all cable news these days.

Once the niceties were out of the way, I saw an extraordinary performance by this President. There was a point when he was describing the insurance exchange component of his plan that I thought to myself (with some dismay), “He’s throwing the public option under the bus”. But he didn’t. Instead, he looked to mollify those who oppose it by saying only 5% of Americans will use it.

Downplaying the importance of the public option wasn’t my favorite part of the speech, but if your goal as a progressive is in fact to see progress, that President Obama made Wednesday night. His invocation of everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy to John McCain to Chuck Grassley was brilliant.

Brilliant, that is, if you want to get a bill passed.

Sad to say, the Grassleys, McCains, and other Republicans will likely avoid the hand of bipartisanship as extended by Barack Obama. They’ve got an election to contend in 2012, and a healthcare reform bill championed by Barack Obama and passed this year would all but doom their chances at running a competitive race. They still think they can channel all that rage they saw at town hall meetings last month into something that will maintain the status quo. That’s why Cong. Joe Wilson yelled out “You lie!”  in response to Obama’s assertion his plan won’t cover undocumented immigrants. Universally condemned, this fool couldn’t apologize fast enough.

So what does President Obama’s speech mean to hard working Americans who worry about health coverage for themselves and their families? Hope, I would think, not the hope that comes from advocating a universal, single payer plan, but hope nonetheless.

As for Republicans, don’t expect more than two or three to back the Obama plan in the Senate. I think he’ll still have to play hardball to get it passed, but pass it and sign it he will.

What do you think?

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Cash for Clunkers…cars… A New Partisan Fight?

It sure looks that way. The Cash for Clunkers program, which gives buyers of new, fuel efficient cars rebates of up to $4500 for turning in old gas guzzlers, has become a political football.

That should be no surprise. What’s interesting is the fighting now is directly because of the program’s popularity. The $1 billion dollars budgeted for the program has quickly run out. Now, the House has passed an additional $2 billion dollars, but the Senate may not follow suit.

So what’s not to like? New car sales during Cash for Clunkers have gone up, dealer inventory has dropped, and in theory, gas guzzling relics are leaving American roads.

cash.for.clunkers

The problem, say Republican senators, is the cost and the fear on the part of people like John McCain that speculators are already abusing the program. In fact, he threatens to lead a filibuster against extending Cash for Clunkers any more money.

As usual, the McCains and Jim DeMints of the Congress are just saying no. Never mind that buyers exhausted all the money in the program in about a week. Never mind that Ford will post its first monthly sales increase since 2007. The point is to never give an inch, unless you absolutely have to. The government says it will continue the program until the Senate acts (or doesn’t), but like with health care, one has to ask why the GOP is so good at forging a united front, while Democrats seem to be hedging their bets.

To be sure, no one is saying Cash for Clunkers should go on forever, And yes, there have been some problems, like the government’s Website crashing, and too much paperwork. But still, it’s a popular program even has an environmental benefit (though no one’s talking about it).

Cash For Clunkers

Maybe this time Republicans are overreacting. It’s hard to argue with a program that offers a serious discount during times like these. Americans like Cash for Clunkers. Otherwise, the McCains and DeMints would be arguing it was a bad idea in the first place.

So give it the extra $2 billion, and let it run its course. More than that the Republicans might have a point. US car buyers know that nothing is forever, not zero percent financing, not employee pricing, and certainly not Cash for Clunkers. It’s a shot in the arm the economy could use, and, more importantly, you can’t treat every Obama Administration initiative like it’s health care.

But the Republicans should know that by now, shouldn’t they?

What do you think? More Cash for Clunkers, or no?

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