Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Daily Strike-12/24/09-Milestone Achieved

Good morning and welcome to the Daily Strike. This will be a quick entry, as I'm about to head to the airport. But how could I not commemorate this historic day?

HEALTH CARE: A little after 7am this morning, the United States Senate, by a vote of 60-39 (Republican Jim Bunning did not vote), passed health care reform. Vice President Biden assumed his constitutional role as President of the Senate and announced the final roll call vote. The 60-vote Democratic caucus, strained for months by intense intra-party negotiations, held together vote after vote over the last several days, and in doing so, passed the greatest expansion of the social safety-net since the Great Society.

To many of us, this doesn't seem like a victory. After all we've given up to please the Liebermans and Nelsons, it may seem like we're stuck with an empty case called "health reform." I think Ezra puts our feelings into perspective very nicely in this piece.

Senate and House leaders will return to work early next week to begin the arduous process of merging the two bills. The House returns to work on January 11th, while the Senate does not come back into session until the 20th. As a result, it will be several weeks before we get a definitive look at the final bill. But at this point, there's no turning back. I think it was very key that Senate liberals like Bernie Sanders (VT) and Russ Feingold (WI) supported the Senate bill. It sends a message to House liberals that this is something any good progressive should support, despite its shortcomings.

Some issues, like abortion, subsidies, the shape of the health insurance exchange, and the employer mandate, will be difficult to settle. But negotiators, led by the President of the United States, are determined to get it done. And they will. The President should have a bill at his desk by the State of the Union, if not shortly after.

DEBT CEILING: The Senate also voted 60-39 to raise the nation's debt ceiling by another $200 billion. This temporary raise will allow us to move into February without defaulting on our loans. This bill is sort of like cleaning the dishes after Thanksgiving dinner. Nobody wants to do it, but everyone recognizes that it needs to be done. Part of the responsibility of governing is taking tough votes that won't be popular at home. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) assured the Democratic caucus that they would get no Republican support. After Democrat Evan Bayh (IN) voted against the bill, Democrats were a vote short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill. Retiring Republican George Voinovich (OH) took the hit and supported this necessary piece of legislation. Both Houses of Congress must return to the issue in February when the ceiling will have to be raised once again.

That's it for now. And that's it for much of the next week here in Strike-land. As I said yesterday, you can expect a couple of longer entries by New Year's Day, but in the meantime, relax, take a break from politics, and enjoy your holidays.

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