Tag Archives: Nebraska

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.

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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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Will Abortion KIll Healthcare Reform?

And to think all this time I thought the public option was the most controversial element of reform. Silly Me! Some lawmakers managed to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include an amendment in the House bill barring the use of federal subsidies to pay for insurance that covers elective abortion. That means only in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother could such subsidies be used. Needless to say, while enough lawmakers found this acceptable to get the bill passed in the House, some were furious.

You know what? They’ve got a right to be mad. This amendment, a bone to moderate Democratic House members, makes abortion available only to those who can afford it. It is a backhanded way of telling poor women that a group of lawmakers, most of them men, still want to be able to tell them what to do with their bodies. That the Speaker of the House is a woman is tragically ironic, but no excuse. Neither is the political expediency that this “deal” represents.

Now the same debate is about to begin in the Senate. One Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has already said he won’t vote for the bill unless the Senate version is as restrictive as that passed by the House. Who needs Republicans when you’ve got guys like this? Senate Republicans, by the way, wouldn’t vote for this bill if it restricted abortion, banned any care for illegal immigrants, and eliminated the public option. They’re simply the Part of No, meaning if Democrats crafted it, they can’t vote for it.

President Obama, to his credit, wants the House language on abortion eliminated from the final bill. He’s right when he says it’s a healthcare bill, not an abortion bill. Yet the House amendment presents the clearest gauntlet thrown down yet by so-called moderate Democrats. They presented Pelosi with an all or nothing at all scenario, leading a number of progressive Democrats to threaten a scenario of their own.

It all boils down to a couple of simple questions. Is the prospect of insuring 36 million Americans worth forcing some women to give up their right to choose? Will moderate Senate Democrats, if Majority Leader Harry Reid caves on abortion, then go after the public option? Where exactly do folks draw the line? When does the unpalatable become unacceptable? Keep in mind that unlike Nancy Pelosi, Reid opposes a woman’s right to choose.

Looks like it’s cards on the table time. But who will blink first? You tell me.

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