Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Daily Strike-10/13/09-Finally, Finance

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. It was a big day for health reform, so let's get right to it.

HEALTH CARE: Finally, after months of seemingly endless delay, the Senate Finance Committee passed its version of health reform by a vote of 14-9. The biggest prize for the Democrats was securing the vote of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Snowe held her cards close to her chest, but decided to support the legislation at the end because she wanted to be a part of history. All Democrats on the committee supported the bill. All Republicans except for Snowe voted no. The bill will now be merged with the Senate HELP bill and will be sent to the Senate floor in two weeks at the earliest.

Overall, this is a very good day for health reform. For the first time ever, all committees of jurisdiction have now passed health reform bills, and they are about 80 percent identical. Even if Congress adopts the lowest common denominator of what's in these bills, it will be a vast improvement over what we have now. I got into an interesting discussion with The Big Picture about how Snowe's decision will impact the debate. On the one hand, if Snowe withheld her support, Democrats could give up on the Republicans, go it alone using the reconciliation process, and pass a strong, progressive bill. On the other hand, Snowe's vote keeps momentum on the side of progress. It also will help convince wavering Centrist Democrats that they have some bipartisan cover. I think that Snowe's positive vote is a huge net positive. So much of the politics behind health reform is how the effort is portrayed in the media, and what the "conventional wisdom" is among Washington elites. Because of Snowe's vote, the conventional wisdom now holds that health care reform is a foregone conclusion and it behooves reticent Democrats to get on the train.

Majority Leader Reid has his work cut out for him as he merges the two bills together. The Senate Finance bill did not have a public option, while the HELP bill did. The HELP bill also had an employer mandate, and more generous subsidies. Reid will have to balance having a good strong bill with the need to get 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster. Of course, whatever is not included in the merged bill will come up during the amendment process. Any amendment can be filibustered, meaning it would require 60 votes to pass. Therefore, Reid should include all of the most liberal provisions in the merged bill. I'd much rather have Republicans and conservative Democrats looking for 60 votes to strip these provisions out than liberal Democrats finding 60 votes to put these provisions in.

For his part, President Obama congratulated Senator Baucus (D-MT) for completed the bill. He reminded us that much work remains to be done. I think at this point, the President will be pretty closely involved with negotiations as bills come to the floor of the House and Senate.

Overall, I'm feeling good. Today's vote confirms one thing: this is not 1993. Health care reform will pass in some form this year, and our country will be better off for it.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President met today with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero at the White House. The two discussed Spain's commitment to the War in Afghanistan. Obama denied that he has changed his opinion from earlier in the year when he seemed eager to add more troops to secure the region. Obama claimed that the plan was always to reevaluate the situation after the Afghan elections in August. Washington is continuing to wait anxiously as Obama and his national security team reach some sort of decision on how to proceed.

THE SENATE: Besides the Finance vote, the story out of the Senate today is more stagnation. Senators voted on a cloture motion this afternoon that would have ended debate on the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill. On a pure party line vote, the motion failed 56-38. Senator Reid voted no for procedural reasons, so that he can bring up the motion again at a time of his choosing. The reason the Democrats couldn't cut off debate was that they were missing three of their own members. With Senator Reid's vote, that would have gotten them the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate. I have no idea why Republicans, even the "moderate" ones have decided to filibuster this bill.

The Senate will either have to start working on another appropriations bill or try to round up votes to finish this one. They also have a couple of House-passed appropriations conference reports waiting at their doorstep. And they haven't even touched House-passed bills dealing with Climate Change, Food Safety and Education, with just several weeks left in this year's session. Ladies and Gentleman, the United States Senate.

THE HOUSE: The House had a quiet day today, only voting on a few suspension bills. They'll tackle more appropriations conference reports tomorrow. Still no word on when we might see a health care bill come to the House floor. House Speaker Pelosi has promised to get CBO to provide a cost estimate and give members 72 hours notice prior to a vote. That means we may be looking at an early November vote.

That's it for today, see you tomorrow!

No comments:

Post a Comment