Thursday, December 17, 2009

Today in health care

Yeah, the fight is still going on and it will never end. Howard Dean is pissed and wants the bill killed. Paul Krugman feels it is underwhelming but saves lives. Keith Olbermann went all "Special Comment" on the bill. The unions are wondering what the hell they fought for. Cheaper prescription drugs and real cost savings on health care was killed. And now, near the end, two Senators are vying to extract their last pounds of flesh from the bill. In a surprise move, one of them actually has good intentions.

Independent socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is mad. Mad that reconciliation wasn't at least credibly threatened as an option, mad that his single payer bill was used as both a delaying tactic and not given a vote on the floor, and, as of now, he isn't voting for the bill. Whether he'll vote for cloture is another question, but he is concerned that the bill doesn't help enough people, cut costs enough, and provide real options to people. This makes him the first Senator all year to actually throw a tantrum in an attempt to extract something positive from the legislative process. Mark this on your calendar folks, it's a historic day.

The same cannot be said for Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. He saw what Joe Lieberman got and now he's salivating over his power. And he will not vote for cloture until he shouts "Cave" and the Democratic leadership responds with a sufficient attempt to pile rubble on themselves. He's back on the abortion thing.
One issue that will be handled separately, though, is abortion. As I reported yesterday, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who has been working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), presented Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) with new legislative language on federal funding for abortion yesterday. Nelson says abortion is a make or break issue for him, and he regards the provision in the current Senate bill as too lax to support.

As of last night, Nelson hadn't had a chance to evaluate the new compromise. But according to Politico, Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee has already decided: "This proposal would break from the long-established principles of the Hyde Amendment by providing federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortion on demand. This is entirely unacceptable."
If past discussions over the Stupak Amendment and the Catholic Bishops are any indication, Ben Nelson has turned over veto power on a health care bill and the right to try to recede women back into second class citizen status on matters of their own body to private abortion groups like the NRLC. Isn't that nice? On the bright side, the fight to get Ben Nelson to sign on has at least given Glenn Beck a nice platform to lob dishonest accusations of treason around. So there is that.

So, the horse trading isn't over and the fight to make the bill worse goes ever on. Likely they will end up trading women's rights for a health care vote, because really, the goal is to get anything passed at this point. And what's more important, passing a bill where opinions on it range from "deeply mediocre with the bad outweighing the good" to "deeply mediocre with the good minutely outweighing the bad" or women having some sort of personal rights to make decisions on their own? I think we know the answer to that.

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