Firebaggers trying to kill health reform improvements

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.

Just like clockwork, along comes Jane Hamsher, the firebagger extraordinaire and the only prominent self-proclaimed progressive whose organization has been trying to kill health care reform.  They now want to kill those improvements, too.  Of course, the attempt to kill further reform efforts in Congress is couched in a "demand" for a vote on the public option.  Her [Hair on] Fire Dog Lake Wolf Pack Action PAC has a petition up, asking Sen. Bennett of Colorado to introduce and force a vote on the public option in the Senate.

What's wrong, you ask, with putting the public option for a vote in reconciliation?  If the reconciliation package is not passed in the Senate as is, it will send it back to the House.  Each provisional change has the potential to pick off votes in the House, and of killing the bill by delaying it.  It basically will set up a never-ending back and forth amendment process, nearly ensuring the improvements the House already passed never gets enacted.  That is why Sen. Durbin, the assistant majority leader in the Senate, promised to whip the votes for the House version of the reconciliation bill, and to whip votes against any changes to it.  The House-passed package does not include the public option.

To support any changes to the reconciliation bill in the current process is to essentially root for the failure of the bill.  That's what Jane Hamsher and Fire(bagger) Dog Lake are doing.  What's tragically funny is that the same reconciliation bill also contains an overhaul of the federal student loan system, eliminating billions in waste that go to banks  - something Hamsher's PAC says they support.  Setting up a change-and-delay process jeopardizes that reform too, and evidently, she and her crew don't care.

Then there's the whole question of whether the public option even fits Senate's reconciliation rules, which only allows narrow, primarily budget measures (the House designed the reconciliation bill with an eye on that as both Senate and House leadership consulted the Senate parliamentarian).  It also relies on some pretty fuzzy math to assume the Senate has the votes to pass a public option under reconciliation procedures.

We are at the end of a very long process with the current legislation.  The Senate must deliver the votes and pass the House reconciliation package as is, and send it to the president to improve health reform.