Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Daily Strike-12/22/09-Two Down, One to Go

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike, as we get closer and closer to the Senate's final vote on health reform. And a Democrat defects to the other side! Let's get to the day in politics.

HEALTH CARE: This morning, the Senate Democrats cleared another procedural hurdle in their quest to pass health care by Christmas Eve. This morning, the Senate took 3 votes to advance health reform. First, the Senate voted to table the Reid amendment. Why would Democrats kill their own amendment? Turns out it's a procedural move to disallow any more amendments. Second, the Senate approved Senator Reid's "manager's amendment." Finally, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on Reid's "substitute amendment." All votes were 60-39, and all, of course, were strictly along party lines. Republican Senator James Inhofe (OK) did not vote.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Senate will take two votes. First, they will vote to adopt the Reid substitute. Next, they will vote to dispense with a Republican point-of-order. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Republicans are still convinced that the bill's individual mandate is unconstitutional. Imposing a penalty for failing to buy health insurance is clearly under the powers of the interstate commerce clause. The Republicans nonetheless have raised a point-of-order that the bill is unconstitutional. Finally, the Senate will vote to close off debate on the underlying bill.

Republicans had previously threatened to use all time available under Senate rules before allowing a final vote. Today, however, they agreed to hold a final vote Thursday at 8am. Thus, we're less than 48 hours away from both houses of Congress passing comprehensive health reform. Democrats have already twice proven that they have 60 votes to advance, so these other votes are just formalities.

After Thursday's health care vote, the Senate will vote on a bill to temporarily raise the nation's debt limit.

There is already talk about what will take place during House-Senate conference negotiations. House Democrats seem to be conceding that they have lost the public option fight. They are now wisely turning to other ways to make the bill more progressive. For one, liberals will try to make the bill's major provisions come into effect sooner than 2014. Hopefully, they'll also push for increased Medicaid eligibility and higher subsidies. In my view, the most useful think progressives can do at this point would be to fight for reasonable changes in the conference committee. It will be a lot more useful than calling for the bill to be killed.

Finally on this topic, President Obama said today in an interview that he did as much as he could to sell health reform. He also pushed back against liberals by saying that the public option wasn't a big part of his campaign, and that the fight over it has been overblown. I disagree with the President on this one. My earliest understanding of his health care plan was that the government would be offering a plan to compete with private insurers. But seeing the reaction to the President's interview today on the Internet gave me a realization. We need to get over our anger and frustration that this bill isn't all that it could be. We are about to achieve something truly historic, something that will save thousands of lives, and something that will improve the quality of life for millions of Americans. It's time to see the forest for the trees.

GRIFFITH: Today, freshman Democrat Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama switched to the Republican party. He apparently became disillusioned with his party's leadership and agenda, and decided that enough was enough. In practical terms, this switch means absolutely nothing. Democrats now control 257 seats instead of 258 (the same amount of seats they controlled in early November.) Further, Griffith voted against pretty much every item on the Democratic agenda, including the stimulus, the budget, Cap-and-Trade and health care. He even said earlier this year that he would not vote again for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House.The move, though, is a symbolic victory for the Republican Party. It gives credence to their argument that the Democrats' agenda is too far-left, just like Arlen Specter's party switch earlier this year allowed Democrats to portray the Republicans as extreme.

Party-switches always baffle me. Parker Griffith accepted millions of dollars from the Democratic party last year, and now he is trashing their leadership? The Republican party, conversely, spent millions of dollars on brutal attacks against Griffith, questioning his patriotism, and accusing him of short-changing cancer patients in his career as a doctor. Now, they are welcoming him with open arms. Just a little weird to me...

Anyways, there's a silver lining to Griffith's defection. Given a tough political climate, Griffith probably couldn't have won as a Democrat in a deeply conservative district. Now, the party doesn't have to spend money defending a guy who votes against the party on almost every major item. In fact, as I discovered today while perusing the Washington Post's vote database, Griffith has voted against his party 26 times...in the last month!!

That's it for tonight, we'll keep you posted on the health care home stretch!

No comments:

Post a Comment