Tag Archives: Olympia Snowe

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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Is the GOP Fighting a Civil War?

Is it North vs. South all over again? Recent public statements seem to indicate moderate Republicans, mostly from the North and Midwest, are getting tired of their conservative, southern brethren.

Witness the recent shot across the bow by Ohio Senator George Voinovich. “We’ve got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns. The party is being taken over by southerners”, the outgoing senator says.

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Some of this is pushback from DeMint’s now infamous “Waterloo” statement regarding the Obama health care plan. Yet that doesn’t tell the whole story. The GOP has been steadily losing support in areas where just a few years ago, they did well in elections. Only in the South do they dominate, and that’s because they’re generally so conservative.

So what to do to stem the tide? As a progressive, I shouldn’t really care about this.

However, I do remember a time when the GOP was a very different party.

When I was coming up, people like Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, and Lowell Weicker were prominent figures in the Republican Party. Even now, there are moderates like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe among the ranks of Republicans. Trouble is, their numbers are shrinking.

Part of the problem is that conservative Republicans have an army of support, not only in their home states, but among the right wing punditocracy that rules conservative talk radio and television. For some reason, even the mainstream media tends to overblow their importance to, for example, the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The mitigating circumstance there was the decision by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham to support the nomination.

The battle over health care reform has emboldened the conservative wing as well, as evidenced by De Mint’s  “Waterloo” remark.

The question is, at what cost? Can the conservative wing of the Republican Party actually expect to turn back the clock? Do they really think there’s any currency left in the ideology of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?

Maybe conservative think tanks have convinced them it can happen. Maybe the tea parties, and the birthers, and the people clamoring for the status quo on health care can sway the American people one more time. I’m not betting on it, though.

One thing the conservative Republicans forgot all about was the economy.

To this day, there have been few bold proposals coming from the Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns of the world as to how that gets fixed. Without the vision to deal with that, the GOP could be a minority party for many years to come, no matter how many times they say “no”.

And the South would lose the war. Again.

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