Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 22, 2009

WHERE THINGS STAND.... At this point, every step forward has a certain historic significance. The Senate voted 60 to 39 last night to bring a health care reform bill to the floor for the first time ever, marking the latest in a series of milestones. But that there was any drama at all surrounding last night's vote underscores the silliness of the process -- there was a lengthy, overwrought debate yesterday about whether to have an even longer, more overwrought debate in December.

Or put another way, yesterday's vote (supermajority on the motion to proceed) makes it possible to have other votes (supermajority on amendments), which will make it possible to have another vote (supermajority on cloture), which will hopefully lead to another vote (final passage).

And while last night's vote was far more difficult than it should have been -- every Republican in the Senate opposed even talking about health care reform -- it was the easiest hurdle to clear.

Two reluctant Democratic senators, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, warned that their support for a motion to open debate did not guarantee that they would ultimately vote for the bill. Their remarks echoed previous comments by several other senators, including Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.

Those comments made clear that more horse-trading lies ahead and that major changes might be required if the bill is to be approved. And it suggested that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who relied only on members aligned with his party to bring the bill to the floor, may yet have to sway one or more Republicans to his side to get the bill adopted.

If the Senate leadership had 59 votes lined up for cloture, finagling one lone holdout would be tricky enough. But as the bill currently stands, there are four holdouts who are all prepared to vote with Republicans to kill health care reform. Indeed, two of the four -- Lieberman and Lincoln -- were pretty emphatic about their intentions yesterday, leaving themselves no meaningful wiggle room.

Much of the debate will focus on the public option, of course, but votes on abortion, immigrants, subsidy rates, and medical malpractice will be nearly as contentious.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said late yesterday, "The battle has just begun." It was the only accurate remark he made all day.

Last night was another achievement that keeps the ball rolling. Regrettably, it's still rolling uphill.

The debate is expected to resume a week from tomorrow and extend through December. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still intends to pass a bill by Christmas.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (9)

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Doesn't the Senator of Walmart realize that a public option would be good for her corporate master? After all, a substantial portion of Walmart's employees are already government subsidized with food stamps.

Posted by: Art le Dardur on November 22, 2009 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

In my DREAM WORLD there would actually be a DEBATE/DISCUSSION in December but we all know that is NOT what will happen...there will be more misinformation and LIES about this Senate bill and more watering down to satisfy despicable "out for myself" DEMS who have added little to the process. Had all the energy and media exposure of both sides been put into writing a SIMPLE bill that did what the President called for and if DEMS could find the balls to hang together to achieve those IMPORTANT goals rather than line their own pockets and advance their own media face time we might actually be on the way to some meaningful (uncluttered) health reform...

Posted by: Dancer on November 22, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Harry is really feeling his oats this week. He's at least resisting the urge to talk defeatist in public.

Notice who got to stand directly behind Reid when he announced the schedule for votes and debates earlier this week? Freshman senator Al Franken. He's got smarts and spine, and its good to see Reid's taking advantage of that. With that crack Reid made about Broder yesterday, mayhaps Franken's sense of humor is rubbing off on him.

Posted by: Midland on November 22, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

The time has come...

If there is 1 thing the health debate has made agonizingly clear it is that the time to kill the filibuster has come. I am not an expert on its origins so I can't speak definitely about them, but I am pretty sure that the initiators of the practice never envisioned its current use. The idea that a party can win landslide congressional victories and still not be able to pass any of its major legislative priorities is ludicrous.

I am also sure the people who helped developed the filibuster never imagined that the opposition party would compare itself to the Taliban and vow to thwart every major act of legislation of the ruling party. Could this come back to bite us someday...when the GOP takes over again? Sure...but the point it we are already getting pummeled now! Allowing the current perpetual deadlock to continue will almost certainly result in the GOP eventually retaking its congressional majorities. And with the Taliban like discipline now imposed on the Republican caucus, the continued existence of the filibuster will be pretty irrelevant for the Democrats anyway.

Reconcilliation, simple majority, drawing straws....I don't care, but we have got to put an end to this madness before it is too late!

Posted by: James M on November 22, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Doesn't the Senator of Walmart realize that a public option would be good for her corporate master?

But what about the Senator from Cigna? If the conservadems want a trigger, we on the left need to extract something from them. I'd propose that the coin that buys the trigger is the individual mandate. The insurance cos. get to choose. They can have the mandate with the PO (and the millions of new customers) or they can have the trigger with no mandate. Since they'd still have to cover all comers, losing the mandate would be devastating to their profits.

My bet is that they cave on the PO.

Posted by: Daryl P Cobranchi on November 22, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

>>Lieberman and Lincoln -- were pretty emphatic about their intentions yesterday, leaving themselves no meaningful wiggle room.>>

They've switched positions before. It's not too long ago that Lieberman was explicit in his support of a public option,

Posted by: foosion on November 22, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

The federal government is a national disgrace pitting the voters' interests against corporate interests and wealthy, and the people lose every time.

Posted by: zoot on November 22, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Amazing how the time to kill the filibuster didn't occur when the Republicans had a Senate majority almost as big as the one the Dems have now. Then, the people who run this blog and probably most of the commenters here were going on and on about how awesome the filibuster was, and when the Republicans threatened to use the so-called nuclear option because of the unprecedented filibustering of judicial nominations, the left went ape. But now that the Republicans are returning the favor, we get all kinds of talk about getting rid of it. This is reminiscent of the talk about scrapping the Electoral College after the 2000 elections. It seems the left is ready to dispense with rules and traditions, and even amend the Constitution, when something doesn't go quite their way, but they are more than willing to use those rules to their advantage when the shoe is on the other foot. That is usually what most people refer to as hypocrisy.

And I get so tired of people who support this bill telling everyone that opposition to it is all about corporate American vs. the little guy. Funny, I have nothing to do with insurance companies or corporate America and I oppose the bill AS DO THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS AS INDICATED BY EVERY POLL TAKEN ON THE SUBJECT.

The country does not want this bill, and it is absolutely amazing that those on the left think there is going to be some huge political payoff for them in passing an unpopular bill that raises taxes yet doesn't provide benefits for another four years.

Frankly I can't wait for at least three or four of these people to filibuster the vote to end debate. Heck, it will only take one, and given his pronouncements on the public option, Lieberman long went past the point of no return as far as the filibuster is concerned.

PS Anyone claiming Al Franken is funny needs to get a life. The guy couldn't make a hysteric laugh.

Posted by: I will gloat when this is filibustered on November 22, 2009 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Today's medical professional liability system is too adversarial and too expensive. There are alternatives. More at http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=1779

Posted by: Jeremy Engdahl-Johnson on November 22, 2009 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK
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