HEALTH CARE: We have reached a compromise! This morning, Senator Ben Nelson announced that after a series of modifications, he will now be able to support the Senate health care bill. Since no liberals seem to be too angry about this compromise, pretty much assuring that we have 60 votes to pass this bill. The Big Picture sums up my feelings on this day extremely well:
I am THRILLED that health care reform will pass!!!!!!! Even with the annoying compromises to the centrists, this means that health care will be more affordable, thirty million more people will be insured, and experts predict hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved. It is the greatest advance toward a decent society... where people have a real safety net in decades. What a great day! As important as Obama's victory.
We can't let our annoyances at the the compromises obscure the fact that this bill will insure 31 million Americans and save lives. I have no tolerance for liberals out there who are so angry that the bill might help insurance companies that they want to see it killed. The legislative process is often ugly, and we're getting close to the finish line.
So what did we have to give up to secure Nelson's vote? People can buy insurance with abortion coverage, but the money has to be segregated from money provided through subsidies. States, however, can opt out of this provision and instead institute an outright ban of abortion coverage in the individual market. In addition, we'll be throwing some money to Nebraska for Medicaid. I wouldn't have put these provisions in my ideal bill, but it could have been a lot worse. The Nelsons and Liebermans of the world weren't able to undue the basic structure of the bill. And as Tom Harkin (D-IA) said, this is just the beginning. We will now have a good framework to build on in the coming years.
There are still some obstacles in the road to a final bill. The House-Senate conference could be contentious on a number of issues, including abortion. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), author of the anti-abortion amendment in the House bill, is against the Senate language, and may marshall enough of his pro-life colleagues to jeapordize the Nelson compromise. Because the Senate has no margin for error, the final bill will look more like the Senate measure than the House measure. Sure, the House bill passed very narrowly, but once it is moderated slightly, it should pick up a few votes from some Blue Dog Democrats.
But for now, I'd put the odds pretty high that President Obama will sign a comprehensive bill by the State of the Union address in late January, and make no mistake, it will mark a HUGE accomplishment for this young administration.
DEFENSE BILL: In brief other news, the Senate agreed to the Defense funding bill by a vote of 88-10, sending it to the President for his signature. 9 Republicans and Democrat Russ Feingold (WI) voted no. Our government is now fully funded through September 30th of next year. The bill also contained extensions of various safety net programs and tax cuts, as well as a 2 month extension of The Patriot Act.
That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!