Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 20, 2010

WITH ONE DAY TO GO.... The health care reform bill had a pretty good afternoon yesterday. Today may not be as pleasant.

Yesterday, key "yes" votes started falling into place, creating genuine momentum towards success. Late in the afternoon, Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), who voted against reform in November, announced he would support the final package, calling it "the most important piece of deficit reduction work that's been done here in a decade." Murphy's decision came around the same time that Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) made the same "no" to "yes" shift. The two brought the total of previous reform opponent who'll support the bill to seven.

Also encouraging were announcements from several "yes" votes who'd been threatening to bolt -- Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), and Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.). -- all of whom said they'll vote to pass reform.

So, is reform finally on track? Not quite yet.

There are still a few liberal Dems who voted for reform in November, including Massachusetts' Stephen Lynch, who intend to vote with right-wing Republicans because they don't see it as liberal enough. New York's Michael Arcuri won't budge, though he can't coherently explain why. Oregon's Peter DeFazio is still threatening to side with the GOP unless changes are made to Medicare reimbursement rates.

And then there's abortion -- or more specifically, indirect, circuitous subsidies for abortions -- which has nearly killed health care reform several times, and which may yet destroy hopes of success.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) still intends to kill the bill, and as of late yesterday, he apparently controlled nine other votes: Arkansas' Marion Berry, Georgia's Sanford Bishop, Louisiana's Anh "Joseph" Cao, Pennsylvania's Kathy Dahlkemper, Ohio's Steve Driehaus, Ohio's Marcy Kaptur, Illinois' Daniel Lipinski, West Virginia's Alan Mollohan, and West Virginia's Nick Rahall.

All 10 voted for reform in November, all are well aware that the restrictions in the Senate bill have satisfied much of the pro-life community, and all are apparently prepared to let the entire initiative fail anyway unless they get their way.

As far as the Democratic leadership is concerned, losing Stupak and a few others is manageable. Losing all 10 puts reform in real peril. And so, as the NYT reports this morning:

House Democratic leaders late Friday were exploring the possibility of a deal with abortion opponents that would clinch the final votes to pass major health care legislation, but they faced stiff resistance from lawmakers who support abortion rights.

It's unclear exactly what will happen next, and the process may get a little more complicated. Speaker Pelosi would give Stupak a vote on a stand-alone bill, but he realizes it would likely fail, especially in the Senate. Brian Beutler had a good explanation of Stupak's ransom.

He's been pushing for a vote on something different, and much more obscure: what's known as an enrollment corrections bill. The details are complicated, but basically, it's a rarely used procedural technique that would allow the House and Senate to amend the Senate bill after it's passed both houses, but before it's signed into law. Stupak says it only requires 51 votes in the Senate. He also implied that passage of health care reform could be made contingent on the adoption of new, stricter abortion language.

Pelosi's gambit may be to give Stupak his vote to get him on board, all the while knowing it won't pass the House or the Senate. But that's a risk pro-choice members aren't prepared to see their leadership take.

And that's key. The leadership may have concluded that reform may not survive if Stupak and his bloc side with Republicans, but if pro-choice Dems decide Pelosi has given Stupak too much, they'll have the votes to kill the legislation, too.

Expect a busy day.

Steve Benen 8:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Thanks for giving us the lay of the land, Steve.

Posted by: Jack on March 20, 2010 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Enrollment corrections is, indeed, an obscure path, yet there likewise remains an equally-obscure countermeasure to it---the President doesn't have to wait for the bill to be sent to the WH; he can go to the bill, and sign it on the Hill.

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 20, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

This is an awful lot of nonsense to make Bart Stupak happy. Anybody going to primary him and his little gang? Near as I can tell he embarrassed himself with a misinterpretation of the bill and now can't back down. He isn't smart enough to be a member of congress.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 20, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Note well: the Stupak group is composed entirely of Representatives of rural districts, in largely rural southern or midwestern states. These representatives, in general, represent FAR fewer voters than the SAME NUMBER of representatives from more populous, left-leaning urban states, like New York and California.

It's an outrage that this group, representing a tiny slice of our population, can pull this kind of crap.

We need true one-person, one-vote representation in the House. If we had it, this would not ever happen. The rural-state bias in the House is intolerable. I don't know how we change it, but until it is changed, we are going to have bad governance..governance by a tiny minority.

It's wrong. Just wrong. Not as wrong as the grotesquely anti-democratic Senate, but wrong nonetheless.

Posted by: LL on March 20, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not saying that anything could have been done any differently, but in my opinion, fights over abortion have been as devastating to the progressive cause as racism. I would say that abortion is the single issue that turned large numbers of very religious Catholics and protestants into conservatives. (Gay rights is somewhat a factor, but not nearly as important, in my opinion.)

The very religious are not inherently pro-capitalism or pro-big-corporations. As a matter of fact, I think a good argument could be made that unrestrained rule by corporations is much more destructive of the religious ideals of traditional family values than anything dreamed up by secular humanists.

The unholy alliance between religion and corporations is what is wrecking the country. Corporations don't inherently care about family values or right to life, and the religious don't inherently care about capital gains taxes, or the plight of insurance companies or deregulation. But each side has learned to pretend to care about the other's pet causes, because only together do they have any power to affect elections.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 20, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

"It's an outrage that this group, representing a tiny slice of our population, can pull this kind of crap."

Affirmative action for the less populated areas.

Posted by: Dave on March 20, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

The NFL could learn a thing or two digging into the tie-breaking rules that have risen to see daylight lately . The fight to keep the corporate soviet style diktats against the people has only to employ the old mentally ill gambit ala poppy Bush vs J. B. Aristide , for a nice feel of complete of surrender to temptation .

Posted by: FRP on March 20, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

What the Democrat Leadership in both houses (and Rahm in the WH) have still to learn is the simple fact that if you surrender to hostage takers, they will only demand more and more. If they didn't cave so many times in the past they wouldn't in this absurd situation now.

Posted by: Yoni on March 20, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Brilliant baring of the truly misogynistic soul of America under the appropriately named political discourse of "health care reform." Will go down in history as a sign of the barbarism of our country at this point in its history just as the old "three fifths compromise" signifier in the US Constitution marks the racism that still afflicts us.

Stupak and his ilk (Hyde among them) will go down in history as a persecutor of women, just as the southern racists like Calhoun forever have a taint of evil to them.

Posted by: neill on March 20, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

I may be second to none only Steve in my Pass-The-Damn-Bill-ness, but Stupak's price is too high. Make a big public show of the arguments about Catholic groups favoring the bill, then twist everyone else's arms as hard as you can, then vote without any concessions to the Stupid 10. If they want to show how "pro-life" they are by killing health care for a generation, that is on their conscience. More importantly, it would so piss off real Democrats that we'd likely rid ourselves of all anti-choicers once and for all and we can get back to being the party of equal civil rights where we belong.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 20, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Stupak does indeed have a primary challenger, Connie Saltonstall.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on March 20, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

In the future Texas textbooks illustrating the thrilling history of the political process concerning Health Care Reform , there is a distinct possibility that the people who were there such as Jefferson at the revoloution , and ourselves at the moment will be written out . The ostensible cover being to save ink .
Even a large Texas style "perverse obstinancy" will have noticed the global destruction of climate change , eventually . Yes , by the time Texas gets around to changing the history of the first term of the Obama presidency , to suit their modest needs to be wrong about everything . Health Care Reform will appear a bigger mote in a certain type of Texan yahoo's eye than the extreme weather making most of Texas uninhabitable .

Posted by: FRP on March 20, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

LL, yes, there is a rural aspect to the group. But, Kathy Dalhkemper represents the NW portion of Pennsylvania and Dreihaus the Southwestern suburbs of Chicago. Plus, although rural, I did not know West Virgina fought with the South as both Allan "Earmarks" Mollahan and Rahall are from WV. The majority of them have the Roman Catholic Church in common, however, Berry is a Methodist, Bishop a Baptist and Rahall a Presbyterian. Mollahan has not designated his religious preference.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 20, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, expect violence as the Republicans are driven to paroxysms of rage stoked by Fox. A brick was thrown thru Rep. Slaughter's office window in Buffalo, and expect to see more of that.

Posted by: bob h on March 20, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Just for clarification, it's Lipinski who represents the heavily populated suburbs of Chicago, as well as part of the city. He is essentially the Chicago's archdiocese boy in DC, and is so dense that he's a follower of Stupak, who is a dim bulb himself.

Posted by: tommyudo on March 20, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

At moments such as this, we will see plainly the ideologues and the pragmatists among us free and liberty-minded people.

All left Congressional Democrats voting against this particular piece of legislation at this particular moment in our particular political history haven't been paying attention particularly well!

Liberal Congress Critters standing in opposition to this legislation live in the clouds! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 20, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Sanford Bishop said yesterday he'll vote for the bill. He said he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, and he'd rather be damned on the side of the angels. I liked that a lot.

Posted by: shortstop on March 20, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

The majority of them have the Roman Catholic Church in common, however, Berry is a Methodist, Bishop a Baptist and Rahall a Presbyterian. Mollahan has not designated his religious preference.

I'll grant that religious affiliation is the key thing here, but I'll bet that NONE of those representatives represent as many people as representatives from urban New York, or, say coastal san francisco or Los Angeles.

We do not have a properly functioning representative democracy here..it's a badly biased representative democracy, and that should be changed.

Posted by: LL on March 20, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, tommyudo, for that pick up on Lipinski - I had my notes mixed as Dreihaus does represent west of Cincy.

LL, funny thing about certain representatives representing more people, as Chris Matthews tried to tie the "Elitist" label on Anthony Weiner for thinking, as Chrissie Pooh said, his district was more important than those in the heartland or even Wyoming and such small states. Matthews despises intelligence of any sort.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 20, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

As an active Democrat in Massachusetts, I can tell you that a No vote on Healthcare by Rep. Lynch guarantees that his political future in Massachusetts as ended. If he thinks this will help him in a Senate race against Brown, Lynch might as well have come out as a Yankee fan. His career is toast.

Posted by: Ed, Watertown MA on March 20, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

how can anyone call themselves 'pro-life' and vote against this bill regardless of the abortion debate? the positive impact it will have on millions of people who are NOW walking this planet is enormous, not to mention the thousands of lives it will save. if you vote against this bill, you are essentially voting against these people. you are voting against saving lives. how does that stack up with the accounting vagaries of abortion funding? do the right thing. PASS THE DAMN BILL.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on March 20, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

"how can anyone call themselves 'pro-life' and vote against this bill regardless of the abortion debate?"

Maybe because funneling money at the insurance companies does nothing to keep anyone alive. Quite the opposite in fact. It guarantees more death because we're giving all the power to the worst actors in the whole equation.

Posted by: Tlaloc on March 20, 2010 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

You could address the rural disparity of the House by simply increasing the size of the House by about 150.

Most other advanced democracies have legislatures of about 550-650 members. The major downside for the U.S. is we don't have the same traditions of party discipline and even the House, the more partisan, majoritarian body, can be very difficult to whip, as this vote shows.

Maybe increasing the size of the House would make whipping easier, by reducing the influence of any one individual representative, but it might make it even harder to whip, since you'd have to hold together even more disparate voices.

Posted by: Andrew on March 20, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: the big bang theory episodes on January 15, 2011 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK



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