Tag Archives: Senate Finance Committee

Senate Committee Vote on Healthcare- A Victory?

My first instinct is to say no, no, no (with apologies to Amy Winehouse). That’s because the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday didn’t contain a public option. We keep being told that it could be negotiated as different bills come together, but there doesn’t seem to be the guts among Democrats to see it through. That would include President Obama, who’s been sending conflicting signals about the public option for quite awhile now.

Back to the Finance Committee vote. It was 14-9, with Republican Olympia Snowe breaking ranks to vote with the majority. This is being hailed as some sort of breakthrough. While I hail Senator Snowe’s willingness to break ranks with her party, one Republican voting in favor of a watered down bill isn’t my idea of something to celebrate. But that’s just me.

I remain curious about just what the nine naysayers on the Finance Committee really wanted in the first place. Was it just time, time to eventually kill reform? They tried their best, these slaves to insurance industry dollars. They even tried the last minute tactic of putting out an industry funded report that said the reform bill wouldn’t work. They continue to try to convince the American people that if more people have  access to affordable healthcare, those who are already insured would lose something.

What they’d lose varies, depending on which right wing lugnut you’re watching on TV or listening to on the radio. The strategy, however, is classic. If  THEY gain, YOU lose. Watch them go after Olympia Snowe (oops, they already have!). What they won’t tell you, however is that this us against them tactic is fundamentally un-American. If people really want their country back , how about taking it back from people who pit Americans against each other? Or is that too much like politics as usual?

There’s still much work to be done in the battle to make sure all people in this country have access to affordable healthcare. I’ve said it before, this ought to be a matter of national pride. Should we be satisfied being the most powerful nation on earth while we’re 37th in healthcare outcomes? Trust me, the Party of No has no answer to this, but sadly, they’re rarely asked the question. One person who understands this clearly is my good friend Brent Budowsky. Check him out in thehill.com, click on Pundit’s Blog. He pulls no punches when he says it’s time for the Democrats to stop playing and lead. It is about time, isn’t it? You tell me.

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Obama vs. Fox News; Limbaugh vs. Sharpton- Important to You?

We interrupt your valid concerns about the Senate Finance Committee vote on healthcare reform, President Obama’s deliberations on Afghanistan, and how to put the country back to work for a couple of stories that got quite a bit of ink over the past 48 hours or so.

On the one hand, it looks like the Obama Administration has taken the gloves off regarding Fox News. White House communications director Anita Dunn was blunt. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

Well, DUH!!!

The administration is just realizing this? Fox had known all along that their bread would be buttered by using their opinion programs to savage this president. In fact, they’ve made hay with Dunn’s remarks, and are just as sure to get a ratings bump as David Letterman was with his sex scandal. The people who watch Fox News expect Obama bashing. That’s a big reason why they watch. An attack by the White House also gives the pouter pigeons (O’Reilly, Beck, et al) at Fox News an inflated sense of their own importance on the public stage. Perhaps it would have been better to deal with them as the enemy in private.

The other story distracting attention from whether we’ll have the public option involves another right wing media blowhard. Rush Limbaugh is part of an ownership group that wants to buy the St. Louis Rams football franchise. Why is anybody’s guess, since the Rams are currently winless. This is the same Limbaugh who disparaged Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb as a product of affirmative action. He also called the NFL, paraphrasing here, like the Crips and Bloods without weapons.

Enter Rev. Al Sharpton, never one to back away from a good public fight. He doesn’t think Limbaugh should own an NFL franchise, and he’s asked for a meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell to express his concerns. He’s been joined by the head of the NFL Players Association, and several current players in asking the league to deny Limbaugh. El Rushbo, in his resp0nse, brings up Sharpton’s involvement in the Tawana Brawley incident of more than 20 years ago, and the media feuding goes back and forth.

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For some people, who owns an NFL team, and stating the obvious about a right wing cable news network may be just as important as whether healthcare reform will afford more Americans access to quality care. Or whether more American kids will die in a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan. Or whether our unemployment rate will continue to hover around double digits for the foreseeable future. I don’t happen to be one of them. Is it wrong to say I could care less if Rush Limbaugh owns a losing team? Or even whether the Obama Administration views Fox News as the enemy? You tell me.

NB: I know writing about this stuff makes me seem hypocritical. Sorry.

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Public Option Punked? And By Whom?

So the Senate Finance Committee decided to vote no on two proposals that would have put a public option in their versions of a healthcare reform bill. Both proposals, one by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and the other, from Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, went down to defeat because of the treachery of a total of five Democrats.

Does this mean the public option is dead?

Nope. It just means there are a majority of lawmakers on the Finance Committee prefer to look out for themselves instead of the American people. The Republican rationale drips with hypocrisy. These people have taken “government can’t do anything right” as their personal mantra. Yet why do they oppose the public option? Because they’re deathly afraid government will do healthcare right, and put some of their buddies in the health insurance business out looking for other work.

And some of them should be. I’m talking about those who won’t insure people with pre-existing conditions, those who drop people the minute they get sick, those who raise rates to unconscionable levels for no reason other than to rake in big bucks. Some of those bucks they turn around and spend on the same elected officials who would have us believe their votes are about principle.

For the record, the Democratic punks of the Senate Finance Committee include Senators Max Baucus (committee chair), Kent Conrad, Blanche Lincoln, Bill Nelson, and Thomas Carper. Each will say they have legit reasons for opposing a public option. It’s nonsense, pure and simple.

So, what’s next?

President Barack Obama, that’s what!

He says he supports a public option, but as yet he hasn’t insisted on it.

Now is the time, Mr. President. Time to play hardball, time to stand up for the people who elected you. It’s time to tell the punks you won’t sign any healthcare reform bill that crosses your desk without a public option. If you can tell a sitting Democratic Governor of New York to drop out of a race that’s a year away, you can do this.

It ought to be a piece of cake.

Healthcare reform without a public option is no reform at all. That’s why the Republicans are making it their last stand. They don’t want real competition for their friends in the healthcare industry. The issue here really isn’t them, but what the “good Democrats” in Congress and at the White House are prepared to do.  Is Harry Reid ready to use reconciliation to get this thing done?

And will the House eventually hammer out a bill with a public option that can win a majority?

You tell me. Is the public option still alive?

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