I know there is a lot of consternation among many environmental groups and a part of the left about the President's new announced policy of a comprehensive energy and climate strategy, including some off-shore drilling. Despite the outrage, though, it turns out that most Americans support offshore drilling by a 2:1 margin. The latest Pew poll found that Americans support an all-of-the-above strategy on energy:
I know there is a lot of consternation among many environmental groups and a part of the left about the President's new announced policy of a comprehensive energy and climate strategy, including some off-shore drilling. Despite the outrage, though, it turns out that most Americans support offshore drilling by a 2:1 margin. The latest Pew poll found that Americans support an all-of-the-above strategy on energy:
Once again, an ideological battle is confronting us on the left. President Obama this morning announced that as part of a comprehensive energy and climate change policy, he and his administration, lead by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, will open up large swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic coasts to offshore oil drilling.
A lot of Republicans, these days, are either calling for, or getting close to calling for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to resign. As a Democrat, I think he is doing a superb job. For us. So here is my plea to my Republican friends: please please please don't fire Michael Steel! After all, what other Republican can give the Democrats a list to publicize like this?
(Screenshot from MSNBC)
Seriously, this probably wasn't a big surprise to anyone with a serious gay dar, but folks, it turns out Ricky Martin is gay.
He revealed as much on his own website yesterday. That he's gay is and that he came out is great news for the LGBT community. What bothers me is that according to Ricky Martin, he did not come out before because he was told it could hurt his career. I don't doubt it would. Homophobia is rampant everywhere, including in the music industry. Hopefully some of it can now be broken. No one should have to hide their sexual orientation for the sake of their career, be it in music or in the military.
Back in the 1980s, the great tax-cutter Ronald Reagan raised taxes on unemployment benefits. The Patron Saint of GOP economic policy also shamelessly decided that your social security benefits should be taxed if you had any other income. Last year, Obama and the Democratic Congress provided relief on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits. The Recovery Act delivered numerous tax cuts to the middle class. Health care reform adds up to the largest middle class tax cut for health insurance ever. But hey, don't look at the evidence. Parrot after me: the terrible horrible no good very bad socialist communist Democrats want to raise your taxes!
Now, the Republicans have a new complaint against the Democrats, President Obama and the landmark health care bill: they're stopping corporations from claiming a tax break on the money the taxpayers give them!
I guess it's true, what they say. A picture is worth a thousand words. And a video, many more. Watch how the Republicans - leadership and rank-and-file GOP Congressmembers have constantly used violent language to stir up crowds.
The Republican party apparatus is in good part responsible for ginning up the tea party crowds and stoking their anger to the point of violence. No objective observer can reach a different conclusion.
Now that health reform is law, one good news is that specific policy reforms and initiatives in the bill are gaining more attention rather than overarching, negative narratives that distract from actual policy debate. We seem to be taking a turn away from sound-bites and towards details, and I think that's a good thing. One of the items of the new law to come under substantive scrutiny lately are the high risk pools. Much of the concern about high risk pools and their effectiveness is warranted; nonetheless, they are a good enough idea to merit an objective analysis.
Today's analysis will involve two parts: a factual summary of the what's actually in the bill with respect to these high risk pools, and how the math works out in terms of the funding given both the current high-risk pools in existence in some states as well as other parts of the new law.
It was kind of amazing what we saw yesterday. Eric Cantor, the Republican whip in the House of Representatives gave a press conference accusing Democrats of fanning the flames in the latest political violence. That's quite a feat for Mr. Cantor. We have seen Democratic offices vandalized, Democratic members of Congress openly threatened and called racial and homophobic slurs, and Eric Cantor thinks it's the Democrats' fault.
Let me be clear: you reap what you saw, Mr. Cantor, sooner or later. Your party is responsible for ginning up this lynch mob. Your party and its leaders and members of Congress laid the seeds of fearmongering and violence a long time ago. Like when Rep. Michele Bachmann went on television in 2006 to ask for a witch hunt in Congress to find out who's "pro-America" and who's "anti-America." Or when in April of 2005, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas essentially justified the assassination of a federal judge because the judiciary was handing down decisions he did not like. Was he rebuked by the Republican party? Oh no, he got a promotion and is now the Chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Talk about sore losers. It turns out that the Republicans in the Senate have found a couple of trivial provisions in the reconciliation package improving the new landmark health care reform law. The offending provisions were found in the education portion of the bill, and have essentially no budgetary or policy impact.
[...] Republicans identified parliamentary problems with at least two provisions; correcting them will require that the House vote again to approve the measure.[...]Thanks for the stall tactic, Republicans. But their victory is short-lived, and the House will take up the minutely amended measure right after the Senate and will pass it just as they did on Sunday. The final vote on the package, after having the two items stricken, just passed on a 56-43 margin. The final House vote is next.
The flaws identified by Republicans were in the education section in the bill and did not appear to endanger the eventual adoption of the changes to the health care legislation.
[...] one of the provisions in question involved changes to the Pell grant program for college students from low-income families. The bill would establish an automatic increase in grant awards, tied to inflation; the disputed provision would prevent any reductions in the maximum award.
I know I haven't done one of these in a while. But here are today's. First, as usual, the readings:
- Benefits of health reform that kick in almost immediately.
- This incredibly insightful and informative diary on criminal justice on Daily Kos. I am no policy expert on criminal justice, and by adding this to the reading list, not trying to take positions on particular issues exposed.
- The President's Executive Order affirming that health reform is about health care, not abortion.
- Ezra Klein speaks out against fear mongering and threats of violence.
As I said before, for all the political unrest, incivility, vandalism and violence that is now happening across the country against those who supported health reform, the GOP has blood on its hands. Well, apparently, Republicans are now concerned about their image, and are running around doing damage control, giving lip service to opposing violence. House Republican whip Eric Cantor and Minority Leader Boehner both issued statements to that effect.
From a press briefing held by Majority Leader Hoyer and Majority Whip Clyburn, we now know that at least 10 Democratic members of Congress have asked for extra security because of physical threats.
The Republican party apparatus and members of the Republican and conservative leadership - GOP members of Congress, conservative media leaders and the Republican National Committee - have blood on their hands for the violence, racism and bigotry now being spread by so-called tea party activists and political opponents of the President. Try to deny it as they may, but they have whipped people up into a frenzy and encouraged destructive behavior rather than constructive criticism.
Since health reform - that is now law - has come closer and closer to reality, the opponents have gotten more agitated, more angry, more disruptive and more violent. First, there was the use of racial epithets, homophobic comments, and spitting on members of Congress. Republican members of Congress came out to egg on these crowds, and took to the floor of the House to shout "baby-killer."
(The credit for this following video goes to Brave New Films. Please sign the their petition after you watch the video.)
I could tell you a bunch of things, but in this case, the pictures are really worth thousands of worth. This is the story of health care reform - from start to success.
Photo credit: The White House. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Madam Speaker. And above all, thank you, Teddy.
|President Obama signs health reform into law. White House, 3/23/10.|
By 49%-40% those surveyed say it was "a good thing" rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms, as "enthusiastic" or "pleased," while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as "disappointed" or "angry."
The largest single group, 48%, calls the bill "a good first step" that should be followed by more action on health care. An additional 4% also have a favorable view, saying the bill makes the most important changes needed in the nation's health care system.
This morning, the President signed historic health reform legislation. But the job of health reform isn't done, and this process isn't yet completed. The Senate must now pass the reconciliation bill through a majority vote to improve reform. I have completed a full Senate Democratic caucus whip count on reconciliation to improve the just passed health reform legislation. Who's for it or clearly open to it, and who's against it or hesitating. According to my count, right now, there are 52 Senators who are supportive of reconciliation, and seven who are either opposed to it or aren't sure.
I know 52 is enough to pass the bill, but I would like to have a bit more cushion here, and there are some Senators who should be pretty easy to get on board. But even more important than that, we want to get as many of our Senators to vote the right way as possible.
Here is the list in two categories: supporters and opponents/undecideds as of now. I will update as often as new information is available. Some of the names on the list makes the following assumption: Senators who are on the record supporting a public option under reconciliation are obviously open to reconciliation. With that, here are the names:
Last night, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the United States House of Representatives made history by passing sweeping health care reform. The major reform package passed in the House was done in two parts - first, the House passed the underlying Senate health care bill (HR 3590), sending it to the President's desk for his signature. Immediately afterwards, the House passed a budget reconciliation bill improving parts of the same bill.
These improvements included more generous financial help for those who need it to purchase health insurance, closing of the coverage gap in Medicare prescription coverage completely, delivering relief to all states for new Medicaid enrollees, and more funding for community health centers.
Final update @ 11:25pm: After trying for the better part of a century, health care reform finally passes. The President, with the Vice President on his side, marked this momentous occasion for the American people.
Update @ 8:35pm: The House has now passed the reconciliation bill, and thus the entire health reform by a vote of 220-211. The House is done with its business, and the underlying bill heads for the President's signature.
Update @ 7:45pm: The House just passed the underlying Senate bill on a 219-212 vote. YESS.
A lot of things have happened today in the House of Representatives, and passage of the health care reform legislation seems assured. After holding out, Rep. Bart Stupak decided to vote for health care reform, in exchange for an Executive Order by the President clarifying that the Hyde amendment applies to health reform with respect to having no federal funding for elective abortion. Democrats had the votes even before that, but that secured a solid majority.
Republicans have tried to obstruct in every which way possible.
The Speaker of the House - the Honorable and the immensely great Nancy Pelosi is speaking now before this historic vote! I will update as often as I can, or see my twitter feed. She says the legislation is about the American creed of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, as well as opportunity.
As the historic vote in House for health care reform nears, I am going to bring to conclusion my series on measures targeted at slowing down the growth, and ultimately reducing, of actual health care costs and not just of health insurance. Today, I will be focusing on parts of the bill that are geared to reduce prescription drug expenses. The overall potential savings will depend not just on provisions that directly reduce prescription drug expenses but also provisions that reduce prescription drug consumption, resulting in an overall reduction in cost.
In a research study published in September of 2008, the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that in 2006, almost $220 billion was spent on prescription drugs, nearly 10% of our total spending on health care. The growth rate of prescription drug spending also outpaces those of hospital and physician services.
Early this morning, the New York district office of House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter had a brick thrown through the window. Just yesterday, the tea party protesters of the health care reform bill also came to their true racist, homophobic, bigoted form:
A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot,"[...]Today's vandalism comes on the heels of these events. Some opponents of health reform are unfamiliar with the idea of peaceful and lawful protest, or are simply barbaric. Violence, racism, homophobia - and these are the people that Republicans in Congress coddle. These are the types of people that the likes of Michele Bachmann cheer on. Republicans national leaders have a history of condoning violence against federal judges, too.
The news developments about who's going to vote no on the health care reform legislation in the House today and who is going to vote against it have accelerated in the last few days. Speaker Pelosi has had considerable success in convincing her fellow Democrats to vote for this historic legislation, but the vote counts are still uncertain, and some politicians, it still seems, are more interested in preserving their position in Congress than in delivering health reform to the American people. Given the unified Republican obstructionism, the bill must pass with Democratic votes alone.
But the constituents and activists who helped these wavering Democrats get elected aren't taking this lightly. They are telling their elected representatives to do the right thing and deliver for the American people, just as the President did this morning. Because I am in California, I want to cover a big push in California first.
On the eve of the historic vote on health care reform, President Barack Obama addressed the Democratic House caucus, reminding them that history is calling and that they need to do the right thing.
As health reform moves forward, conservative teabaggers are growing desperate. In the desperation, the worst in them is coming out - as they throw racist and homophobic epithets at members of Congress. Let's answer by delivering health reform for America. Don't stop contacting Congress - tomorrow all our lives and the character of our country hang in the balance.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi put a fork in any speculation about changing the health care bill's abortion language to suit Bart Stupak's wishes to use health reform as a vehicle to humiliate women.
Speaking to reporters just off the House floor, Pelosi made clear she wouldn't allow votes on "anything," including abortion funding, the public option, or a single-payer system.
The speaker's words effectively rule out the prospect of a deal with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who has demanded, along with some allies, more stringent rules on federal support for insurance plan covering abortion.
This is the third in my series of looking into the cost measures of the current health reform legislation. The entire series, as its title - Beyond Insurance - indicates, is an attempt to move beyond simply the health insurance cost savings. Not all cost savings are quantifiable to a definite number of course - most aren't. But this series attempts to provide a look at where the potentials for savings are in our vast $2.5 trillion health care system.
Today's part of the series will focus on state innovations and pilot (demonstration) projects focused on wellness and coordinated care and the savings potential those provisions of health reform entail.
Just about two hours ago, MSNBC had something of beauty. Dylan Ratigan, who, I have noted before is more interested in screaming and riling up populist anger than in honest policy debates, got slapped silly by one of the best domestic and economic policy analysts in the country - none other than the Washington Post's Ezra Klein.
Dylan Ratigan usually gets away with his bullcrap with his other guests, but not so with Ezra Klein. The last bit was the best, most entertaining, and most illuminating:
DR: To make it real simple, the vast majority of people, health insurance gets more expensive, not less expensive.
EK: No, it's the opposite. For the vast majority of people it gets less expensive and not more expensive.
Health care reform seems on its way to passage, but absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. Every last one of us need to continue calling our members of Congress and asking them to pass health reform until it is a done deal. Organizing for America has a great effort going - please join them.
But now that reform is within grasp, I think it's time to take stock of who on the self-proclaimed progressive side are supporting reform, and who is trying to kill it. There is absolutely no doubt about where liberals and progressives stand on this reform - we are strongly and firmly for it, with 90% support. So what progressive organizations are standing with liberals and helping us pass this bill, and which, if any, is actively standing against us?
In the last few hours, news just hit that Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-9th), who voted for the House health care bill in November, is going to vote against the current health care legislation. The switch, ostensibly, is because he doesn't believe the Senate bill does enough to pressure insurance companies. Apparently, the excise tax on high-priced insurance plans that could affect some union health plans is also a reason for Rep. Lynch to switch to a 'no' vote, and endanger health reform altogether, even though unions themselves have been lobbying him heavily to vote on the right side of history, to pass health reform.
We can't spare any votes. We need every last one of them. And for Rep. Lynch to be willing to stand by and watch health reform fail is unacceptable. Rep. Lynch must reverse course and vote in favor of health reform. And he needs to hear from all of us - especially constituents, but I don't really care where you are from. Here is is contact information for all of his offices:
Update - 3/22/2010 @ 3:35pm PDT: The CBO report has been updated to include the manager's amendment to the reconciliation package that the House passed, and the new estimates are reflected now.
This morning, news came that the Congressional Budget Office has scored the combined health reform legislation - both the Senate bill and the reconciliation fix that addresses concerns of the House Democrats. And it's fantastic news - as the Speaker's blog, The Gavel, explains that the full package will:
- Cuts the deficit by $143 billion in the by 2019.
- Cuts the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next ten years.
- Reduces Medicare growth 1.4 percentage points per year - while improving benefits and lowering costs. [fully closes "donut hole"]
- Extends Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years.
- Expands health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans.
- Helps guarantee that 95 percent of Americans will be covered.
- Is fully paid for - costs $940 billion over a decade.
On Monday, I started a series on the health care reform legislation's cost measures, going beyond just health insurance and actually beginning to examine the potential impact on the cost of care. The first part in this series discussed bargaining incentives for insurance companies, community health centers and electronic medical records. Today, I want to look at the cost savings that may be realized in long term care, and the benefits of primary and preventive care, focusing on wellness and early detection.
LONG TERM CARE: HOME HEALTH, ASSISTED LIVING, NURSING HOME AND HOSPITAL
In 2006, the average assisted living facility cost in the US a little more than $35,000, whereas a the average cost of a nursing home was more than twice as much, clocking in at over $75,000, over twice as much. The average cost of a home health aide was $19 per hour. Of course, nursing home care is absolutely essential for many patients. But there are also patients who do not require the full range of services available in a nursing home, and many seniors would like to live a more independent life.
Last week, I took Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-OH) to task for his opposition health care reform. Given how close the vote in the House is likely to be, Rep. Kucinich has been lobbied hard by the Congressional Democratic leadership and President Obama, all culminating in a visit by the President to Kucinich's district in a rally wildly in favor of the President's vision of health reform, where attendants urged the Congressman to vote YES.
To his great credit, Kucinich has listened, and finally relented. He announced this morning in a press conference that he will vote for health reform.
This is absolutely a great step for him, and fantastic news for health reform. Just as Kucinich did not retract any of the criticisms of the bill, I do not retract any criticisms of him. However, in this instance, Kucinich is doing the right thing, and he deserves accolades for that. Thank you, Dennis!
Oh, how I remember the days when the progressive online community adored one Jane Hamsher for her website, Fire Dog Lake. She started on the path of deteriorating political and progressive merit soon after, though, and has encapsulated yesterday with two events.
David Weigel of Washington Independent reported that Jane Hamsher is working with at least one teabagger (in this case, a tea-party organizer). She is telling the teabagger what the whip counts are on what she believes to be the "progressive" side. Jane wrote a piece on her site complaining about it (it's linked from Weigel's article linked here), but not once did she say in her own post that she was not the source for the teabagger. If she wasn't, why not categorically deny it? Funnier still, Hamsher gives greater credibility to said teabagger than she does to a respected reporter. That tells us exactly where her priorities and loyalties lie. With the Teabaggers.
I think that makes it official: we can now call Jane Hamsher and her blind followers official Firebaggers.
MoveOn Political Action is up to something. It's up to what it does best - political and electoral activism. And they have a message for Democrats who would like to defeat health care reform: we're watching you. It's not an empty threat, either. MoveOn's members - myself included - are pledging dollar amounts we are willing to give to stage primary challenges to any House Democrat who votes against reform. Here's MoveOn's message:
Democrats in the House need to know their constituents are watching how they vote on the health care reform that we've all worked so hard for. Make a pledge now so we can let the media, House leadership, and conservative Democrats know how much support there will be for progressive primary challengers to House Democrats who vote against health care reform.I applaud MoveOn Political Action for doing this, and I urge everyone to sign up. This is an once-in-a-century opportunity to strengthen America's social safety net, provide health insurance and real health care for the American people, and to rein in the health insurance industry. With the largest majorities in a generation in Congress, Democrats must deliver. No regional or ideological interest should stand in the way of doing what is right for the American people - and that is to pass this bill.
There's been a lot of grumbling on the current health care legislation - and there are bound to be. As President Obama often says, if health reform were easy, it'd already have been done. But it's not. Nonetheless, Congress is poised to make history by finally passing health reform this week, and it is important to understand what it means for all of us.
Last week, I wrote about the health insurance lobby's deceptive campaign to hide their real costs as a measure of the portion of the health care in America that is actually paid for through insurance companies. But they are right about one thing: the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country isn't the fault of the private insurers alone. In January of 2008, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report showing the various contributing factors that have ballooned our nation's health care costs. In the report, we find this demonstrative chart:
Well, other than the fact that their lips are moving, that is. America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health industry lobby group released a new ad - that they are spending at least $1 million running - playing the victim in the current health care debate. It comes with a nice pie chart, too! Sure enough, they back it up on their blog (I found out that this is their blog by calling them and being directed to it from their Communications department):
About 4 percent of what we spend in health care in this country goes to our administrative costs and profits.
Today Adam Green, founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee went on MSNBC's The Ed Show and just brought change! To math! You see, Adam Green and his PCCC has been going around viciously attacking good, progressive Democrats like Dick Durbin.
Adam and his group have been pushing Senators to go on record about whether they support a public health insurance option in a reconciliation bill. It's important to make the distinction between plain old support for a public option, and the support for it in reconciliation, which works under different rules in the Senate and can only make narrow changes to law. So you need a vote count of how many Senators think it should be included under reconciliation, not just how many think it's good policy.
Last night, I wrote about David Waldman name-calling me because he seemed to have lost the debate on how the current reconciliation proposal could be used under current rules to amend the current underlying Senate health care bill. David Waldman is now quoting stories from CQ and Politico about how he's right. Of course, none of the stories say he's right. Here's what I have to say about the Politico story:
But according to reporting by POLITICO’s David Rogers... That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first.How do things become law? I was looking at this document called the Constitution, and it says that the only way for something to become federal law is for the President to sign it into law (or let it become law without his signature and waiting for 10 days while Congress is in session). Did David call anyone in Politico and ask how they suppose something can be "law" without having been signed into law?
I know what your first question is. Who the hell is David Waldman? David Waldman, also known as "Kagro X," covers Congressional affairs for the popular Democratic blog Daily Kos, and is at least seen by members of that community as somewhat of a voice of authority on Congressional matters.
On January 25, David Waldman and I had a little debate about the process of health reform moving forward. By then it was pretty clear that the House was going to have to pass the Senate bill, as is, and both the House and the Senate would have to agree on a separate package of targeted changes to the Senate bill to fix parts of it that House Democrats found objectionable. This would be done through a process called budget reconciliation, which would allow the Senate to pass it by majority vote, rather than the 60-vote threshold the Republicans are forcing on nearly everything. The only question then was who was going to move first: the House with the Senate bill or the Senate with the reconciliation package.
This will be a quick response to Adam Green's hubbabaloo at the PCCC tattooing 'BETRAYAL?' on Dick Durbin's forehead because Dick Durbin, the majority whip of the US Senate has said that liberals might be asked to vote 'no' on all amendments to the health care 'fix' package that they are hoping to pass through majority vote, using a rule called reconciliation.
Why? Because we need to get this done soon, and the only way to do so is for the Senate to agree to the reconciliation bill that the House sends over (after passing the Senate-passed health care bill) to the Senate without amendment. Here, I'll let the Senator explain, despite Roll Call's patently ridiculous headline:
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged Wednesday that liberals may be asked to oppose any amendment, including one creating a public option, to ensure a smooth ride for the bill. “We have to tell people, ‘You just have to swallow hard’ and say that putting an amendment on this is either going to stop it or slow it down, and we just can’t let it happen,” Durbin, who supports a public option, told reporters. “We have to move this forward. We know the Republicans are likely to offer a lot of amendments, and some of them may be appealing to Democrats, but we have to urge them to stick with the bill.”Republicans are planning to derail the process by offering an unlimited amount of amendments. And any amendment that the House's version of reconciliation will set up another round of back and forth between the House and the Senate. This will delay health reform - and may kill the entire reconciliation process - and then all of us will be stuck with the Senate bill. If the House reconciliation bill does not include a public option - and all indications are that it will not - then adding it in the Senate will simply reduce the chances of a reconciliation fix passing at all. That means all amendments to that House reconciliation bill offered in the Senate need to be killed. Conservative ones and liberal ones. For the sake of finality to the process.
The GOP is running around whining about Eric Massa (until recently, Glenn Beck's darling) and tying him to Pelosi. They want the House Ethics Committee to re-open their investigation into Ex-Congressman Massa's behavior (an investigation that died with the resignation of Ex-Rep. Massa). Their big point of attack is really Speaker Pelosi. They want to tar and feather her with Massa. I'm sure that to that extent, they are going to be touting around a Politico report, titled "Nancy Pelosi aide knew of Eric Massa Concerns in October." ZOMG!! Didja hear? Nancy Pelosi knew!
I believe that it is right to demand an up or down vote on health reform. I strongly believe that in order to get health reform passed, the House should pass the Senate bill, and the Senate should pass by majority vote by the use of the budget reconciliation process, relatively narrow, targeted changes to fix certain areas that are specific budgetary policies (amount of subsidies, putting all states on a level footing on Medicaid funding, and closing the Medicare Part D prescription coverage gap).
However, there has been what I believe to be a misunderstanding among many who claim that a public option - a health insurance option run by the federal government to compete with the private insurers on the exchanges that the current health care proposal sets up - can also be passed with a simple majority vote via the budget reconciliation process. After all, SCHIP and COBRA were major changes to our health insurance system, and those were pushed through by reconciliation, right?
Via Probably Bad News:
Sure, it probably refers to the health care package being put together by the President and the Democrats, but what a headline, huh?
Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has been quite vocal lately about the 40 Senators that are now on the record supporting a public option in reconciliation. And to be sure, they are. But the drive to get Senators to support the public option in reconciliation actually started as a drive to get Senators to urge Majority Leader Reid to insert the public option into a reconciliation bill that could pass by majority vote. Adam would of course say that as long as a Senator votes for the public option in reconciliation, it makes no difference whether they are proactively asking for it to be included.
But I think there is a difference. I think there is a different signal being sent to Sen. Reid's office. The difference is one of pressure and push. It turns out that the letter itself has only been signed by 24 Senators, not 40. The balance, 16 Senators, have been asked by various media sources and have said they will vote for it if it comes up. Let me explain the difference to you this way - the difference is kind of like one between a member of Congress who sponsors or co-sponsors a bill and one who just votes for it. The 16 who did not sign the letter are patently unwilling to create pressure on Majority Leader Reid to put the public option in reconciliation. And for good reason. As Ezra Klein has noted on numerous occasions, even Senators supportive of a public option do not believe that at this point, its re-emergence helps health reform pass.
There are lots of fights on health reform. Between the left and the right. Within the left - the I'm-more-liberal-than-you fight. The fight about whether the President is selling us down the river. Tons of fights to claim the mantle of the true health reformer. In the mean time, the focus got lost. We were so damn busy accusing each other of siding with insurance companies, we forgot the real enemy that was siding with insurance companies. You know, the actual insurance companies.
And in the midst of it all, they have been regrouping, rethinking, and re-inventing ways to stop health reform. Regardless of whether or not you believe what's on the table now is real health reform, they certainly do. And they are going to spend a million dollars running ads on TV to prove it.
Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said insurance industry workers "do not deserve to be vilified for political purposes. ... For every dollar spent on health care in America, less than one penny goes toward health plan profits. The focus needs to be on the other 99 cents." AHIP plans to spend more than $1 million to run television ads on cable stations nationwide beginning in the next few days to push back on the attacks on insurers.
Wendell Potter, the former health insurance executive and whistle blower who spoke out for health reform, today went on MSNBC's The Ed Show and urged liberals to take the current deal on health reform. The entire video is posted at the end of this post, or you can watch it on MSNBC's website.
A lot of people on the left has had problems with the fact that the current proposal, in effect, bring more people into the current system by providing more people with coverage but does not change the fundamental, for-profit health insurance system. Some liberals have struggled with the principled conflict that the bill provides subsidies for people to buy private coverage, thus handing more customers to the insurance companies. While that's there is true reform in the current package, starting with regulatory reform of the insurance companies. As Wendell Potter said,
If there is reform, yeah, they'll get new customers, but they'll have to live in a world that has a lot more restrictions, a lot more oversight than they've been used to.
Rep. Bart Stupak is now threatening that a coalition of Democrats are ready to derail final health care legislation. Why? Well, Bart doesn't think the Senate-passed version of the bill (which must now go through the House) insults women enough. He doesn't want women to be able to buy abortion coverage in the insurance exchanges even with their own money. Bring it on, he says:
"I want to see healthcare pass," Stupak said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "We must have healthcare but, boy, there are some principles and beliefs that some of us are not going to pass.
"We're prepared to take the responsibility. I mean, I've been catching it ever since last fall. Let's face it, I want to see healthcare. But we're not going to bypass some principles and beliefs that we feel strongly about."
I got an email from CREDO Action this morning that has me fuming. I am generally a supporter of theirs and I have signed damn nearly every petition they have ever asked me to. I had even advised my mother to switch to Credo Mobile when her contract with AT&T runs out in approximately six months. But this most recent petition they are circulating calling the President a loser is disgusting and deplorable. There are so many things wrong with this "action," I don't even know where to start. So let's start at the beginning.
If President Obama thinks that some of the senators who've claimed in the past to support the public option have changed their minds, he should start naming names and tell us who they are.Where do you even start with this? I have explained over and over again that a senator's support for the public option as policy does not automatically imply their support for the public option in reconciliation. Reconciliation is a budgetary, narrow, restricted process and in addition to the Senators who oppose the public option on a policy ground, some senators oppose it under reconciliation on a process ground. Big ticket health care reform items - and Credo will argue that the public option for them is the biggest ticket reform item - are unlikely to move through reconciliation. Only budgetary changes to the already existing programs are good candidates for reconciliation.
I was a frequent blood donor. So much so that I'd get a call from the Red Cross every time there was a blood drive anywhere in my area. And I, invariably, always showed up to give blood. I have always considered it a privilege to donate blood. Then one day, I - well, one day, I had sex. And I couldn't give blood anymore. For life. Not because I have any sexually transmitted diseases; I don't. I can't donate blood anymore because I had sex.
You see, I'm gay. And gay men - well the ones who've ever had sex at any rate - are banned from the privilege of giving life, giving blood because of a policy of lifetime ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) instituted by the FDA in 1983. With everything else that makes gay Americans second class citizens, I suppose the ban on giving blood is small potatoes, but I feel very strongly about it. That is why I was delighted this morning to see Sen. Kerry lead a letter co-signed by several other Senators to the FDA asking to have this ban lifted. Sen. Kerry made the glaring discrimination clear in his letter:
In 2004, I went to volunteer for Howard Dean in Arizona for a weekend, and Rep. Raul Grijalva gave a great speech to rally us before we went out knocking on doors. I have a lot of respect and personal admiration for Rep. Grijalva. However, he is dead wrong in leaning towards voting against the President's health care proposal (which, legislatively will be put through by having the House pass the Senate-passed bill as is, and then putting together a reconciliation package).
Apparently, the president's last-minute embrace of certain additional Republican ideas is a problem with the Congressman. Particularly, Grijalva is peeved that the President is agreeing to ensure the existence of Health Savings Account plans (HSA's) in the exchanges.
That provision "was, when we were in the minority, something that we fought tooth and nail to keep out [of legislation]," Grijalva said. "I find that ironic -- something that we had fought to keep out, and indeed were successful, gets back in as part of reconciliation.
Health reform is really near the finish line. This is a critical juncture. Yesterday, the President put his bold leadership on the line and gave it one big push. Now, we need Democrats in the House and the Senate to push final reform through. I say Democrats, because the Republicans have decided that obstructing is the only path they are willing to go down. So it's on the majority party, the governing party. The Democratic party.
When the House last voted on health reform, the House progressives heroically did the right thing and voted for the bill despite its many imperfections. Conservative Blue Dog Democrats, however, weren't in a cooperative mood. 97% (all but two) of the Progressive Caucus supported the House bill, while only 57% of Blue Dogs did the same. 23 members of the Bluedog Coalition voted NO on the House bill. All the statistics and numbers here are obtained from Progressive Caucus and Blue Dog member lists and vote tallies of the House health care vote and the Stupak amendment vote. We are now hearing that Bart Stupak (who is a member of neither caucus) is threatening to walk away with 10-12 members because the abortion language in the Senate bill that the House now must pass does not disrespect women quite as much. Speaker Pelosi has always shown great leadership, and now we are hearing that 10 Democrats who voted No on the original House legislation may vote for the Senate bill and the reconciliation fix.
It's hardly a surprise, but the leader of the left puritans, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, will vote with the Republicans on health reform. He already has, once, when he voted 'No' on the House health bill. As President Obama marked a leadership moment on health reform yesterday morning, Dennis Kucinich found time to go on C-Span and poo-poo the idea of current health reform, because, you know, it's not
picture Kucinich PerfectTM. Dennis' big argument against the health care bill? That without a robust public option (i.e. Medicare-rate based public option), the bill does not reform the fundamental for-profit system, and thus, I assume, in Kucinich's judgment, we would be better off without health reform than with.
Here is the President calling for Congress to act with courage and finally deliver on health reform:
In October of last year, the Congressional Budget office estimated (and the final Treasury numbers concurred) that the final deficit for the 2009 fiscal year would reach $1.4 Trillion. The Republicans are accusing President Obama of singlehandedly creating this deficit, so I thought I'd take a look at how the numbers add up. The reasons for this big actual deficit are two-fold: a decline in federal revenues, and a rise in federal spending simultaneously.
Before we start the analysis here, let's keep one thing in mind. The original budget for FY 2009, passed in 2008 and covering October 2008 to September 2009, was, of course President Bush's budget and was signed into law by him. So anything in that budget is already attributable to him. With that, let's look at the revenue and spending sides.
Tom Harkin, who succeeded the Late Ted Kennedy as the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee, was on MSNBC's The Ed Show yesterday. Ed pushed Sen. Harkin on the matter of including a public option in the reconciliation sidecar to the health care legislation. Sen. Harkin, a strong supporter of the public option, insisted that it could not be included if it hurt the chances of the overall package, and indicated that including it would do exactly that. Here is the whole interview.
Recently, Arkansas Conserva-Dem Sen. Blanche Lincoln's question to President Obama at the Democratic Senators' meeting was whether the President was ready to stick it to his fellow Democrats. Today, Lt. Governor Bill Halter of Arkansas, a real and far better Democrat, declared his intention to challenge Blanche Lincoln.
Bill Halter showed up at the Arkansas free health clinic, Blanche Lincoln did not. It's time for her to go. We need more and better Democrats in the Senate, and Bill Halter is the real deal. Visit Bill Halter for Senate, donate, and do whatever you can for him. We have a real chance here to elect a principled Democrat instead of a corporate hack.
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- Today's readings and videos
- Amidst violence, lip service is not leadership
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- The story of health reform, in photos
- Everyone loves a winner
- These senators need to hear from you on reconcilia...
- Senate reconciliation whip count: 52-7
- Firebaggers trying to kill health reform improveme...
- History made - health care reform passes
- Beyond Insurance: Health Costs - Part IV: Prescrip...
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- Ezra Klein slaps down Dylan Ratigan: "For the vast...
- Time to take some stock
- Call Rep. Lynch (D-MA) - tell him to vote YES
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- Hey, PCCC! Get your damn facts straight!
- No there there on Pelosi Re: Massa
- The public option isn't like SCHIP and COBRA
- Oh, my.
- Inside the numbers: public option letter
- AHIP's 11th hour salvo: $1 million in TV ads
- Wendell Potter to liberals: Take the deal
- Stupak dirty dozen: make them take responsibility
- Dear Credo, stop calling the President a 'loser'
- Kerry, others: lift ban on gay blood donors
- The health care status quo is a slap in the face
- I'm calling out (and calling) the Blue Dogs
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- Just so we're clear about the deficit
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