Monday, March 22, 2010

The Weekly Strike-3/22-3/28

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike on this momentous Monday. For the first time in our country's history, we have the framework in place so that every American can have affordable, comprehensive health insurance. It seemed so unlikely just weeks ago, but now it is a victory for progressivism as large as Social Security and Medicare. We'll talk about last night's vote and the aftermath, but first let's give credit to two brave politicians: President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. These two fought the odds and the political winds to get this done.

HEALTH CARE: The outcome of the vote was no longer in doubt after about 4pm yesterday, when anti-abortion Rep. Bart Stupak announced a deal with the White House for an executive order that would bring aboard a cadre of pro-life Democrats. For the six hours that followed, we dealt with anticipation similar to Election Night 2008, and the climax occurred at the same time of night, around 11pm.

After a debate filled with extreme rhetoric from the Republicans, including charges of tyranny and communism, the House was finally ready to begin voting. The first vote was to approve the Senate-passed bill verbatim. This was the most important vote, because with its passage, even if nothing happened with the sidecar reconciliation bill, health care would be the law of the land. The Senate bill was approved by a vote of 219-212. All Republicans opposed the bill, including Rep. Joseph Cao (LA) who voted yes on an earlier version in November. The list of 34 Democratic defectors is as follows. This group must not get away with this "no" vote. They should be held accountable to primary challengers for going against the Democratic Party's top priority:

Altmire (PA), Arcuri (NY), Barrow (GA), Berry (AR), Boren (OK), Boucher (VA), Bright (AL), Chandler (KY), Childers (MS), Davis (AL), Davis (TN), Edwards (TX), Herseth Sandlin (SD), Holden (PA), Kissell (NC), Kratovil (MD), Lipinski (IL), Lynch (MA), Marshall (GA), Matheson (UT), McIntyre (NC), McMahon (NY), Melancon (LA), Minnick (ID), Nye (VA), Peterson (MN), Ross (AR), Shuler (NC), Skelton (MO), Space (OH), Tanner (TN), Taylor (MS) and Teague (NM).

The House then voted on one last Republican motion to change the bill. The Republican motion would have inserted the Stupak anti-abortion language into the bill, a move that was clearly intended to bring down the bill entirely. Stupak himself bravely stood up against this measure, knowing that it would bring down the entire health care bill. Someone on the House floor yelled "baby killer!" during Stupak's speech. I'm not a fan of the guy, but I felt a lot of sympathy for him at that moment. The motion failed 199-232. All Republicans supported it, as did the 21 Democrats below:

Altmire (PA), Barrow (GA), Berry (AR), Boren (OK), Bright (AL), Chandler (KY), Childers (MS), Costello (IL), Davis (TN), Donnelly (IN), Holden (PA), Lipinski (IL), Marshall (GA), Matheson (UT), McIntyre (NC), Melancon (LA), Peterson (MN), Ross (AR), Shuler (NC), Skelton (MO) and Taylor (MS).

The final vote was on the reconciliation bill, which is full of fixes to the Senate measure. Many House Democrats conditioned their support of the Senate bill on this separate package. It also includes a monumental overhaul of the country's student loan industry. The bill passed 220-211. The only changes from the vote on the Senate bill were switches from no to yes from Lipinski (IL) and Lynch (MA), and a switch from yes to no from Cooper (TN).

The Senate bill now heads to President Obama's desk for his signature. After the votes last night, President Obama made a brief statement, in which he asserted that Congress has reestablished the ability to get things done on behalf of the American people. It had been a long time coming. The President will be going on the road in the coming days to help sell the plan to a skeptical American public. I am of the belief that once people see that there are no death panels and no rationing, they will realize that this was a responsible, important piece of legislation.

The Big Picture will write a longer entry this week on how the President and his allies got this done. It will be the subject of political science classes for years. Many pundits think that this bill will spell doom for the Democratic party in November. I don't believe that to be true. But even if it were, 219 members of the House made their participation in government worth it last night, regardless of whether they win reelection or not.

THE SENATE: The reconciliation bill now heads to the Senate, where consideration will begin Tuesday. Republicans can't filibuster the bill, of course, and Democrats clearly have the 50 votes needed for passage. The goal of the GOP will be to slow down the process as much as possible. They will raise numerous points of order that will force the parliamentarian to rule whether various provisions in the bill relate directly to the budget (as they must for a reconciliation bill). The parliamentarian helped Democrats write the bill in such a way that it would indeed pass muster. Even if the parliamentarian rules against the Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden, in his capacity as President of the Senate, can overrule him. If a provision is ruled out of order, Democrats can overturn the ruling with 60 votes. Republicans will not let this happen. Therefore, Democrats are hoping that the entire bill is ruled legal for the purposes of reconciliation. If a provision is struck down, the bill would have to go back to the House, which would be an annoyance but not a disaster.

Republicans will also abuse their power to offer unlimited amendments. Debate is limited to 20 hours, but even after debate time has expired, the Senate still must vote on all proposed amendments. Senate Republicans will probably propose an amendment to every sentence of the bill in order to draw out the process. The parliamentarian does have the power to rule that Senators are proposing amendments just to be dilatory. I hope he uses that power.

I am reasonably confident that the Senate will pass the reconciliation bill, unchanged, by the end of this week.

The Senate will vote today on two last amendments and final passage of a bill to reauthorize FAA programs before moving on to health care.

THE HOUSE: The House may have had the craziest week ever, but members still have some work to do. Today and tomorrow, the House will consider a slew of suspension bills. The House will then consider another bill on the jobs agenda. This bill will give a tax exemption for the sale of small business stock. It also will include more funding for Build America Bonds. The bill will be financed by cracking down on tax loopholes for U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies. This bill should pass by a wise margin. Democrats are now doing what they've wanted to do for several months: focus exclusively on jobs.

The House will also vote on a separate bill that appropriates emergency funds for disaster relief (to where exactly, I don't know) and for summer jobs. Yet another item on the jobs agenda. I like it!

That's it for now. I still feel that glow from last night...

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Ben. A historic moment indeed.