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Tilting at Windmills

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July 18, 2009

THE POTENTIAL FOR PAIN FROM THE GANG OF SIX.... Yesterday, six Senate "centrists" insisted that any momentum health care reform might have had come to a complete stop. The group -- two Republicans, three Democrats, and Joe Lieberman -- said lawmakers need more time. It wasn't entirely clear what they intend to do with more time, but they want it anyway.

Paul Krugman thinks these "centrists" have the capacity to kill the entire reform campaign.

Will the destructive center kill health care reform? It looks all too possible.

What's especially galling is the hypocrisy of their claimed reason for delaying progress -- concern about the fiscal burden. After all, in the past most of them have shown no concern at all for the nation's long-term fiscal outlook.

Case in point: the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which denied Medicare the right to bargain for lower drug prices, locked in overpayments to private insurance companies, and did nothing, nothing at all, to pay for its proposed outlays. How many of these six self-proclaimed defenders of solvency voted no on the crucial procedural vote? One. (Joe Lieberman, to my surprise.) [...]

If the Gang of Six really does kill reform, remember their names; they will bear the responsibility for vast, unnecessary suffering over the years to come.

Krugman's point about the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 is of particular interest, because the votes are illustrative. This was a terrific example of the wrong way to tackle any kind of health care reform -- Bush demanded the change and asked Congress to act quickly; Republicans didn't even try to figure out a way to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in new costs; insurance companies made a bundle; and "centrist" Democrats, hoping to prove how bipartisan they are, went along.

Now that real reform is within reach, however, some of these same senators have suddenly discovered concerns they didn't have when Bush was doing the asking.

Postscript: This is, by the way, especially interesting when it comes to Roy Blunt of Missouri. In 2003, Blunt not only voted for the Bush Medicare proposal, it was also his job to cajole other House Republicans into voting for it. Six years later, Blunt no longer thinks Medicare should have even been created in the first place.

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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I sure hope that Obama begins twisting arms, kicking ass, and knocking heads, because that is what it is going to take.

Posted by: sjw on July 18, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans didn't even try to figure out a way to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in new costs

I'll bet they made a chart, though.

Posted by: stinger on July 18, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

ron wyden seems to be following in the footsteps of his fellow oregonians -- herb hoover and willis hawley -- as an american political villain of the people...

didn't think ron was such a maroon. i've even been to his eugene office in the new stainless steel bidg, talked to his staff.

i hope he snaps out of it -- but if he doesnt there's a lot of oregonians who will kick his ass if he screws up healthcare reform.

Posted by: neill on July 18, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I think Obama should spend some quality time in Maine talking about health care and Maine's "centrist" senators, who, somehow, managed to make a lot of noise during Bush's reign, but in the end voted pretty much in lockstep with Bush -- and against the needs & desires of the people of Maine (& the rest of the country).

Some people do notice.

Posted by: zhak on July 18, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

good idea zhak...

perhaps a coupla obama-woodstocks in the left and right coast portlands...

like the giant riverfront rally last year during the election campaign in the left coast portland...

Posted by: neill on July 18, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

If 72% of our nation's people favor health-care reform with a public plan and 57% are willing to pay higher taxes so that all of us can have health care, then why are some referring to politicians whose real goal is to kill meaningful health-care reform as "centrists"?

Posted by: hermit crab on July 18, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Wyden's office has been very responsive to various requests from my wife, however, it is truly a shame how he has morphed into a DINO with his vote on the Medicare bill sellout to Big Pharma, (Rep Wu did the same) but, due to his pique with our President, joining with the other five in asking for delay.

Lovely way to start a day by sending a scathing e-mail to my once Oregon Democratic Senator. Only Merkeley remains. At least, we still have our fine representative in Blumenhauer, but, truly a shame that Wyden is emulating Gordon Smith. Yes, Senator Wyden, you did yeoman's work in forging a health care reform plan, but, do not let your pique with Obama for calling the plan too radical, cloud your vision.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 18, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I'm guessing that the total amount of big health/big pharma contributions, cash and in-kind, to the "centrists" would run into seven figures--be nice to see a total before november.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 18, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Od course, where Steve says "cajole," we should read "lied through his teeth about the expected cost of the program to...."

Posted by: jhm on July 18, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

And how much MONEY exactly, do these scum get from the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and everyone else making out like a pig in shit from this current cockp-up we call "health care"???

Call them out for the scum they are. Let's see a whole lot of "educational" ads in their home states while they're on recesss.

Posted by: TCinLA on July 18, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

At least they're coming out about it now instead of throwing a monkey wrench at the last minute. From an organizing perspective they just made things easier-- they are basically asking to be pressured into doing the right thing-- and afterwards they can still get credit for trying to slow things down.

I see a very targeted organizing campaign headed their way during recess, I hope that they and their staff are ready for it.

Posted by: zoe kentucky on July 18, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"This was a terrific example of the wrong way to tackle any kind of health care reform -- Bush demanded the change and asked Congress to act quickly; Republicans didn't even try to figure out a way to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in new costs; insurance companies made a bundle; and "centrist" Democrats, hoping to prove how bipartisan they are, went along."

But, aren't you asking Congress to repeat that process? Obama is demanding reform. The non-partisan CBO is saying that this package is raising rather than lowering cost, and that doing nothing would be less expensive than this package, which suggests we need to reexamine what we're doing. Obama says no, we need to move right now. And you are objecting to Congressmen who are saying, "Wait, we need to look at the cost," and demanding that they get out of the way and pass the bill because we are in a hurry.

Posted by: Bill H on July 18, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

"The non-partisan CBO is saying that this package is raising rather than lowering cost, and that doing nothing would be less expensive than this package"

No, they most certainly are not saying any such thing. All they are doing is saying what it will cost the government in *concrete* budgetary terms. They are not allowed to take into account any possible savings from the reform itself. They can't take into account things like how much money will be saved by people going to a primary care physician instead of the emergency room for care, or how much money will be saved through prevention and proper care before health issues become critical and much, much more expensive.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on July 18, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Let's all remember one basic point. The majority of senate snags this bill passed. Even with this supposed 'gang of six' there are more than 50 votes. It is only because of this stupid undemocratic requirement of 60 votes that we do not have reform now.

Posted by: Thorin-1 on July 18, 2009 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

"In 2003, Blunt not only voted for the Bush Medicare proposal, it was also his job to cajole other House Republicans into voting for it, too. Six years later, Blunt no longer thinks Medicare should have even been created in the first place."

You misunderstand their game plan. It was to 1) enrich their buddies in Big Pharma, and 2) make Medicare so expensive that if they couldn't kill it outright, at least they could means test it.

And thank you, OhNoNotAgain, for pointing out what EVERY liberal should be saying -- just because the government may being paying more than it does now, that does not mean the overall cost to the economy and the citizenry of the US will go up under reform. It almost certainly will go down.

Finally, the letter didn't say anything about voting against cloture.

Posted by: Cal Gal on July 18, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

When Charles Schumer and Rahm Emanuel built the Democratic majority in the 2006 election they did it in part by running Dem candidates who were to the right of the center of the Democratic party. That strategy gave them the chairmanships of all the committees, but it did not give them a majority vote on all Democratic proposals. Besides those new conservative Democrats, there were already Democrats representing Red districts and states, now vilified as "centrists" because their re-elections depend on winning larger majorities of the swing voters than other Democrats need. Krugman can write anything he wants, but those centrists regularly hear from their constituents any number of objections to the health bills as formulated to date. They'll listen to their constituents.

As to Roy Blount's inconsistency, you can drive yourself crazy obsessing over the inconsistencies of elected representatives. The important issue for Blount and his constituents now is what is the best thing to do now, not whether he is consistent with his 2003 vote.

Consider the Senators who voted (in a sense of the Senate resolution) against the Kyoto Treaty. They are now, the Democrats at least, being asked to vote for the Waxman-Markey bill, which has all of the flaws of the Kyoto Treaty. And this is asked of them after the US has increased its generation of alternative energy by more than a factor of 8 since then, and approved funding for more in the future; and while American coal consumption is already declining and Chinese coal consumption continues to grow; and China emits more CO2 than the US, and sequesters much less CO2 than the US. They can pass Waxman-Markey, or they can be consistent with their 1999 vote against Kyoto, but not both. On this, do you support consistency or W-M?

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 18, 2009 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Oops, I mean non-hydro-electric renewable energy generation has increased bore than 8-fold since 1999. Hydro-electric is nearly unchanged.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 18, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK
If 72% of our nation's people favor health-care reform with a public plan and 57% are willing to pay higher taxes so that all of us can have health care, then why are some referring to politicians whose real goal is to kill meaningful health-care reform as "centrists"?

Posted by: hermit crab on July 18, 2009

Indeed! The polls indicate that the CENTRIST position is to DO REFORM WITH A PUBLIC OPTION.

How many other issues Congress has recently tackled had such an overwhelming degree of support?

Opposition to the reform with a public option and to the will of the people has to have severe consequences. The public from Portland to Portland and from Maimi to San Diego want reform!

Posted by: MarkH on July 19, 2009 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

One fact that cannot be disputed is that self-deceiver George Bush was on vacation down at
the ol' ranch an exceeding amount of time during the Cheney presidency.
A strangely hollow existence.
How many month long vacations did this man take? Then there's the costly horrendous fraud
of the Iraq war. The profound horror of his mind, that single minded obsession, documented well by Richard Clarke in "Against All Enemies."
Intelligence and facts fixed around the policy.
Barack Obama is working diligently as well as multi-tasking. He's criticized for taking his wife to New York for an evening.
Fox News and others now eagerly spread lies about health care.

Posted by: loose associations on July 20, 2009 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK
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