Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 12, 2009

IT'S HARD TO GET MUCH SLOWER.... In July, after four months of debate and discussion, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said health care reform advocates were going far too fast. The process, she said, had to be slowed down considerably.

She said the same thing in August. And September. In October, Snowe said it was all still just too speedy, telling Bloomberg, "Christmas might be too soon" to pass a bill.

Yesterday, Snowe was still reaching for the brake.

"The more they try to, sort of, drive this process in an unrealistic timeframe, the more reluctant I become about whether or not this can be doable in this timeframe that we're talking about," Snowe told reporters today.

Throughout the health care debate, Snowe has often pushed the principals to slow things down. So what might make her less reluctant?

"There's always January," Snowe said.

To follow up on an item from October, Snowe hasn't quite gotten around to explaining why she's against moving things forward. Instead, she's urged policymakers to give reform the "thought it needs and requires."

That's pretty vague, to the point that it doesn't seem to actually mean anything. "There's always January"? Yes, and there's always February and March, too. There's also the next Congress, the next administration, the next decade, and the next generation. It's the way policymakers have been dealing with this issue for the better part of a century -- with no sense of urgency.

Delays for delays' sake aren't exactly a recipe for serious policymaking. Congress and the White House have been debating health care reform since about March. It was debated last year during the presidential campaign. It was debated the year before during the presidential primaries. It was debated at length during the Clinton reform effort, which followed previous debates during previous presidents' efforts.

America has been debating health care reform, off and on, since the days of Harry Truman. The issue has, quite obviously, received the "thought it needs and requires." It's time for responsible policymakers to start making decisions, not putting them off until some arbitrary point in the new year.

Dragging this out for the sake of dragging this out seems wildly unnecessary, and more than a little counter-productive.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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To state the obvious - If your goal is to kill the Democratic initiative to reform health care, then delaying the bill is both necessary and wildly productive.

Snowe and company only need to kill the bill once in this Congressional session. Reid and the Democrats have to keep it alive and moving every day.

Posted by: Rick B on December 12, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Forget Snowe. Forget Nelson. Forget Senator Quisling. Go directly to reconciliation, and beef up the bill while you're at it.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on December 12, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

I'm strikingly reminded of a classic Bill Mauldin political cartoon from 1964 or thereabouts, commenting on the debate on Civil Rights legislation.

An old black man in the south is sitting on the porch of a shack, talking to a barefoot black child in rags. He's saying to her "They want to take it slow, child. That's what they were telling me fifty years ago."

Sure would be nice if we had an actual "Free Press" that pressured politicians to explain these talking points.

Posted by: Midland on December 12, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

She just loves the feel of being important. Under our dysfunctional Senate any fool or tool, and their are more of these than any other category, can hold the nation's welfare hostage.

As they say however, 'It's all Good!' the rage in the citizenry with these corrupt scum, on both sides of the aisle, is growing and with any luck we will see the emergence of a real progressive movement in this nation to replace Preznint 'Puppet's' faux version.

This time we will have to do it with real folks instead of the posturing fools of the 'progressive blogosphere...'.

Present company excepted...

Posted by: A.Citizen on December 12, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Snowe does not want reform. But it might be possible to force her to accept it. The other day Kevin Drum had an amusing quote from her with respect to the extension of Medicare benefits that went something like "My providers [i.e., the insurance companies] don't like it." Mr. Drum then wondered aloud whether she had talked to her citizen-constituents in the state of Maine itself. What will "convince" Snowe to support reform will be political pressure from her home state -- e.g., a primary challenge, editorials, petitions.

Posted by: sjw on December 12, 2009 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Tax cuts and wars are the only things the Senate likes to pass. We'll see plenty more of both soon enough.

Posted by: JMG on December 12, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Makes me genuinely wish reconciliation was being taken seriously by the Senate leadership, instead of just as a tired threat for Reid to wave at the Republicans every few months.

Posted by: Balakirev on December 12, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

As I've suggested before, if the Democratic "leadership" had the spine and the 'In your face' attitude that is necessary to govern successfully in the face of the anti-American Republican agenda, then they would start pulling stunts to illustrate to the American people the hypocrisy of the "loyal opposition".

Every 12 minutes a few bars of "The Funeral March" (you know: dum dum da dum dah dah dum da dum da dummm) should ring out through the PA system of the Capital Building to remind everyone there that an American dies every twelve minutes in this country because they don't have health coverage. That's over 44,000 each year.

It would also be good for Democrats to bring this up every time they step in front of a microphone. Pelosi, Reed et al could open every press conference with the same line:

"It's been 26 hours since I last talked to you and in that time another 130 Americans have died because Congress hasn't been able to provide them with access to health coverage."

Posted by: SteveT on December 12, 2009 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Rich, famous, and lazy

Reid has said the Senate will work weekends to get this done. Now consider this sober assessment:

The 100 are famous, rich, powerful, have the best health care and retirement package the public dime can buy, and in consequence of all this, think of themselves quite rightly as a privileged class. And like all privilege classes, they've gotten used to their privileges. That's why they've embraced the lazy man's filibuster. An actual filibuster is hard annoying work. So they automated it. Took the work right out of it...

Of course they especially shouldn't have to work on weekends either. That's just a criminal request for this elite and pampered class. And that's why Snowe wants to slow things down. She wants her weekends back...

Posted by: koreyel on December 12, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

I am concerned that what we're going to end up with is just a big bonanza for the private insurance companies. Too many members of Congress take too much money from them for us to expect real reform.

Remember, children: This country is owned and operated by corporations. They also own the Democrats and Republicans.

Go to YouTube and view the documentaries "Consuming Kids" and "The Corporation."

Posted by: Speed on December 12, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

"...Instead, she's urged policymakers to give reform the "thought it needs and requires." That's pretty vague, to the point that it doesn't seem to actually mean anything..."

Steve, you just described 99.9% of political discourse in this country.

Posted by: oh well on December 12, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Mr Bennen reminded me yesterday of the sunset clause in the bush tax cuts for the rich . He , or one of the commenters , also pointed out that the reason the reconciliation did that was because of the senate rules . Rules which tell us that , along with a freshly forgotten parliamentarian I have heard of and mistily forgotten twice now , reconciliation is truly a last resort .

Posted by: FRP on December 12, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

It's time to throw in the towel on reform. Any bill will be a giveaway to insurance companies. If Obama signs this debacle into law, I will not vote Democratic again.

Posted by: Rock on December 12, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Eight months ago all I knew about Snowe was her name, but now I know her as one of the vainest clowns in the entire Senate clown show. Good work, Oly! Good work, Maine!

Posted by: John Emerson on December 12, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Does the annual cap on lobbyist bribes reset annually in January?

The slower you move the more time there is for donations and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a problem with extending the revenue capture season. This explains why the Democrats don't move more aggressively to a reconciliation option. To get the job done sooner leaves real money on the table.

Posted by: BigSky on December 12, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

If Senate Democrats were not so cowardly, they could re-organize the Senate, and eliminate the filibuster (temporarily or permanently), and then pass legislation on a simply majority vote. That's how the Senate is supposed to work. Our Founders never intended this kind of mess.

We should have passed HCR on a simple majority vote. If we did, there would be a public option and buy-in to Medicate, and real regulation...hell, on a simple majority vote, it's possible we could have had single-payer right out of the gate.

This 60-vote shit in the Senate will take the entire country down California's road. And that's not a place anyone should want to go. I live here, I know. California's a beautiful place, but the crazy Right and cowardly, unprincipled Democrats are turning it into a 3rd world country with the crazy 2/3 rule for taxes and budgets.

This country would function far better if our legislature simply worked the way it was intended to work. But, instead, it's been sabotaged by traitorous republicans. No-one should have to pay any attention to anything Lieberman, Nelson, or Snowe have to say. They should be totally irrelevant to this process. The fact that they are not just shows how profoundly messed up our legislative process is.

Posted by: LL on December 12, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

In American football running out the clock has two styles . One is the prevent defense also called the prevent win by colourful announcers . The other is running up the score .
Maybe I should stick to automoblile analogies but this doesn't feel any different than watching what a wing , a hope , and a prayer look like against a faceless , determined , shouting , lusting mob .

Posted by: FRP on December 12, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I agree entirely with LL's idea of California style entropy .

Posted by: FRP on December 12, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

If Senator Snowe finds the pace of work expected in her job to be too hectic and speedy, perhaps she should retire and let someone more comfortable with that sort of environment take the job. I realize that, as we reach a certain age, we begin to prefer a slower pace, but it would be very hard to find a pace slower than the US Senate's normal speed.

Perhaps she'd be happier monitoring continental drift. That's pretty slow.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 12, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to ask Sen. Snowe exactly how many people she considers an OK number to die while the process slows up.

Let's not forget that some of the key provisions may not take effect for a couple of years, so the starting number is 90,000 dead. We go up from there as the delay continues.

Posted by: Mxyzptlk on December 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes I wonder if the long drawn-out debate isn't serving as cover for things like yesterday's $1+ trillion spending bill. The bill contained a number of "Hot Button" social issues like abortion funding, medical pot, school vouchers, etc. The vote of 60-34 got three republicans and Joe L., who walked three miles to cast his vote...relieving Evan B, Clair M and Russ F from the need to vote yes!

Think about that: Ben Nelson voted for abortion funding yesterday.

Even the structure of that vote shows what is up in the Senate: health care is going to pass with exactly 60 votes and a handful of senators will be given the credit for holding their nose for the greater good.

From HuffPo:

"Three Republicans helped Democrats advance the measure: Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Susan Collins of Maine.

The Democrats opposed were Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri - who voted "no" only after Lieberman arrived to ensure the bill would advance."

Posted by: tomj on December 12, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Not that I'm proud to be cynical, but the way to get Snowe, Liebermann, Landrieu, Bayh, etc. to get out of the bloody way is to give them what they really want: pork. The cost savings of health reform will easily pay for generous pork outlays for their lucky constituents. With any luck, we can set up a bidding war between them and even keep the pork outlay to a minimum. If the GOP is as chockablock with asses as they seem to be, maybe even one or two of their senators would get in on the bidding.

Posted by: beejeez on December 12, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

>"Remember, children: This country is owned and operated by corporations. They also own the Democrats and Republicans."

Indeed they are. Couple dozen senator don't make any difference.

Full public financing of voter elections.
No if, no ands, and no butts.

Oh well.

Posted by: buford on December 12, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The first Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, kept her suitors at bay for years by implying she might give in if only they persisted a little longer. SHe never did. We now have Queen Olympia. If only we persist a little longer, maybe she'll relent.

I also wondered whether or not this metaphor applied to other senatorial holdouts, but the thought of Joe Lieberman dolled up like Good Queen Bess made we want to laugh and vomit at the same time. Odd feeling, that.

Posted by: Broken Arrow on December 12, 2009 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

I think Snowe's motives are simpler.

She knows Mainers want the bill to pass.

She knows if she actually votes against it, and especially if it fails, any Dem opponent in her next election will make it her personal fault: "The Dems begged for her support, but..."

But if she can delay and obfuscate and help keep the thing from ever coming to the floor, then she doesn't have to go on record as voting against.

Posted by: efgoldman on December 12, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Give the poor Senator a break! She's stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place; no matter what decision she makes, she's going to the center of a sh*tstorm.
Support the legislation? That's a primarying from the right. And the base is what turns out during primaries...
Vote against the legislation? New England stands a chance of losing another Republican next time she's up for election. Especially after another X number of yearly 20-30% HC insurance increases.
Almost makes me feel sorry for her.

Posted by: Doug on December 12, 2009 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Maine is one of the poorest states in the US. So a larger precentage of her, and Collins' electorate are dying as a result of her "slow down" tactic than any other state.

And both Senators know that every day they delay they are causing addition deaths and suffering.

Maybe some Mainer should bring charges of negligent homicide.

Posted by: Marnie on December 12, 2009 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

One does wonder, however, why more of this legislation hasn't been thought through over the years, why there is major rejiggering going on up to the last minute. What have these healthcare committees been doing over the years?

Posted by: bob h on December 13, 2009 at 6:54 AM | PERMALINK

Funny, but I don't recall any of these people worrying about the speed that the health reform is going also worrying about taking the time to make sure that war in Afghanistan is well planned. As a matter of fact, I remember them saying that Obama had to make a decision, any decision right or wrong, right away and that "dithering" was just aiding the terrorists. Considering that Afghanistan is costing more than health reform, seems to me that they should be more concerned about getting the wars right than health reform.

But then that is giving the GOPers credit for thinking rationally.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on December 13, 2009 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Doug, I feel as you do, but she does have a way out of her dilemma. She could vote to care for her people rather than the insurance companies and then switch parties.

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Posted by: Stan on March 8, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK
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