Monday, December 7, 2009

The Daily Strike-12/7/09-The Art of Compromise

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Make sure you've read our preview of the week in politics in the Weekly Strike. Also, don't forget to leave those comments!

HEALTH CARE: We start today in the United States Senate, where we got more negotiations and more amendment votes. We talked this morning about about a compromise in the works relating to the public option. The group working on this compromise, made of 5 liberals and 5 moderates. News broke today that liberals won't be giving away the public option for nothing. Liberals are asking for certain provisions in return. Among the ideas being tossed around would be allowing people between 55 and 65 to buy into Medicare. Another idea would be to expand Medicaid eligibility to 150% of the poverty line (as it is in the House bill). This would lower the cost of the bill, as it is cheaper to put the uninsured on Medicaid than it would be to give them subsidies for private insurance. The savings gained from increasing Medicaid eligibility would then be used to increase subsidies. If liberals can win these concessions, I think they can claim victory. They may have lost the public option, but they will have found other ways to get the government involved in increasing coverage and affordability. I'm still skeptical about the public option replacement, which would create an exchange like the Federal Employee Health Benefits program that would be overseen by the Office of Personnel Management. Most experts I've read doubt that this would provide adequate competition to private insurers. I'd like to see a CBO estimate on it. But at this point, liberals are in a tough position. Because they need all 60 Democratic votes to move this bill, they are completely at the whim of a few power-hungry centrists.

Meanwhile, on the floor, Senators voted on two amendments. The first was an interesting one offered by Senator Pryor (D-AR). It would create a feedback section on the Health Insurance Exchange website, so customers could leave comments about the effectiveness of various insurance plans. Consider me impressed; this could be a small way of making insurance companies more accountable. This will only apply to plans in the exchange though, not to the majority of Americans who get insurance through their employers. The amendment passed 98-0.

Next was an amendment by Senator Gregg (R-NH) to prevent Medicare cuts in the bill from funding any "new entitlement programs." This is a strictly political amendment that just helps Republicans with their talking points. The whole idea of the bill is that we are finding savings around the edges of Medicare, and are using that money to give millions of Americans health insurance. The Gregg amendment would essentially do away with that whole formula. Luckily, it failed by a vote of 43-56 (it needed 60 to pass). Republicans unanimously supported the amendment, as did Democrats Bayh (IN), Nelson (NE) and Webb (VA).

Also on the floor today, Harry Reid (D-NV) compared the Republican obstruction efforts to previous attempts to stop civil rights legislation and the abolishment of slavery. Reid has a propensity to use some rhetorical flourishes, but I've had enough of the Republicans feigning outrage. They've spent months misleading the American public about the bill, and just last week had a Senator claim that this bill will kill seniors. And don't forget all of those un-denounced holocaust signs at those tea-party rallies.

The Senate is back at it tomorrow both on the floor and in negotiations. We'll have full coverage in tomorrow night's entry.

THE HOUSE: The House gaveled in today to consider some suspension bills. They'll move on to full legislative business on Wednesday. On Thursday, the House considers the comprehensive financial regulatory overhaul legislation. House Democrats are poised to include a provision that will allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages. This provision passed the House earlier this year, but was stymied (of course!) by the Senate, as I suspect it will be in the future.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Not a lot of news out of the White House today, but we'll expect to see a lot in the coming week. Before the President heads overseas to accept the Nobel Peace Price (and try to square that acceptance with his troop increase in Afghanistan) and participate in the Copenhagen climate change talks, he will give a speech tomorrow on job creation. The President is expected to announce a plan to use the $200 billion in remaining TARP (bailout) money for various job creation programs. I would be a big fan of this effort, especially if the money is used for infrastructure and aid to cash-strapped states. The House may take up a jobs bill by the end of the month. We'll have more on this speech tomorrow.

That's it for now. See you later!

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