Saturday, August 29, 2009

75-80 or Fight

August is almost over and the summer doldrums which brought us "death panels,

chaotic town yells, and charges of Nazi sympathies" are about to give way to a flurry of

activity when Congress returns to work. On September 4th, the "gang of six" in the Senate,

(3 Democrats/3 Republicans) will hold a conference call to continue negotiating over the

size and scope of legislation to reform the healthcare system. Among them is Senator Charles

Grassley of Iowa and Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming. Grassley has already promised he

won't vote for "anything" opposed by the Republican Party; and now Enzi says he won't

vote for anything that isn't bipartisan enough to garner 75-80 votes in the Senate. (Jesus

could return and not get 75-80 votes in the Senate commending his work.)

In other words, whatever legislation is crafted will not get a single Republican

vote when all is said and done. Senator Max Baucus and some other weak-kneed,

jello-spined Democrats could drop every public option, institute medical savings accounts,

give tax breaks to the wealthy, and put a white flag over the Capitol; and Republicans

still would not vote for the final bill. This is not an opinion, but rather a statement of

fact. (The Republicans are on the record saying this very thing.)

The Democrats have faced this situation before. In 1993, President Clinton

proposed raising taxes on the richest 1% of taxpayers. Republican senators screamed

bloody murder. They and their proxies in the corporate media predicted a disaster. If

Clinton got his way, unemployment would go through the roof, small businesses would

close by the thousands, corporations would leave the United States for more tax-friendly

lands, and the economy would be destroyed. Not a single Republican senator voted for

the increase. Vice President Gore cast the deciding 51st vote to break a tie. History

records the next eight years were some of the most prosperous in our nation's history

with President Clinton leaving President Bush a surplus.

Newsweek columnist Joe Klein writes bipartisanship is no longer possible

because there are no moderates left in the Republican Party. There is no one left to

forge a compromise on the Republican side. even so-called moderates, like Olympia

Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, are on the record opposed to any reform containing

a public option. The goal of a bill supported by both parties is a noble one, but it is time

to face a new reality. Nothing the Democrats propose will get Republican support

because they want to use the failure of healthcare reform to gain political points in the

2010 midterm elections.

So, it's time to pass a bill in the House and Senate. Send the bill to a conference

committee (exclude Republicans from the Senate conference committee since none will

have voted for the bill) and return the bill for an up or down vote in both houses. It should

contain provisions that prohibit denying insurance for pre-existing conditions. Healthcare

should be portable; so you don't lose it if you lose or change jobs. There needs to be

catastrophic illness protection so Americans don't go bankrupt or lose their homes

because of illness. The government should be able to negotiate with big Pharma to bring

down the price of drugs. There has to be a public option to compete against private

insurance companies to keep them honest. There must be new procedures to reduce

wasteful spending, needless procedures, and new technology to reduce cost. This bill

will pass in the House. In the Senate, Democrats need only 50 votes to pass such a bill

under a parliamentary procedure called"reconciliation". Thus, the Republicans would

be prevented from filibustering. At the end of the day, such a bill would enjoy wide-

spread support because each one of the provisions I cited (pre-existing conditions,

portability, public option) are overwhelmingly supported. A recent poll shows 77% of

Americans support a public option.

Senator Enzi says any bill that cannot get 75 to 80 votes in the Senate will break

the institution and hurt the nation. Senator Enzi says using reconciliation is betraying

the Senate. (He had no objection when President Bush used it to get 51 votes for a tax cut

for the rich that destroyed the budget surplus.) Senator Enzi forgets that whether it was

Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, or even the Emancipation Proclamation,

none of these controversial bills passed by more than a few votes. All caused great

outrage and debate. All resulted in predictions of doom and gloom by opponents; and

yet I defy Senator Enzi, or any Republican, to propose repealing any of them.

It is time to pass a bill and let the American people decide in 2010 who was

right, the Regressives for trying to stop it or the Progressives who finally got it passed.

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

1 comment:

  1. I think we still need to do a better job teaching people why this is so important.