Monday, October 26, 2009

Not Time To Send Harry Reid Any Donations Yet-- Just a Hearty Pat On The Head So Far


Harry did good today. His merged Senate bill will include a public option, an opt out with a decent timeline and neither an opt in nor a deadly Snowe Trigger. Durbin says progressive senators were organized enough to make it clear that without a public option sans triggers, they couldn't support a bill that would have, in effect, just bolstered the bottom lines of the avaricious, bad faith insurance giants. Watch our Senate Majority Leader above-- and feel good.

He can count the moderate Republicans on two fingers. Unfortunately it takes more fingers to count the Democrats who almost routinely will back the most anti-family of Republican agenda items. And two of the worst are Ben Nelson (NE) and Blanche Lincoln (AR). Let me come back to those two in a moment. Blue America was buzzing all day about starting an ActBlue page to raise money for Harry Reid-- to thank him for his good work. But some of us are a little worried that it might be premature. I mean what he did was swell, no doubt. The Senate is a corrupt and byzantine place and there are a lot of very powerful forces out to kill health care reform-- and anyone who gets in their way. Reid already has a tough re-election battle and enemies of meaningful health care reform will redouble their efforts to defeat him.

Ezra Klein interviewed Sherrod Brown today and I'm sure he won't mind us looking at one of the exchanges they had:
Ezra: Olympia Snowe has said she won't vote for the bill if it contains a public option. Ben Nelson has made similar noises. Will a couple of moderates have a hammerlock on this legislation?

Sherrod: I don't think so. Two reasons. First, I don't think any Democrat wants to be the person who killed the most important Democratic initiative of their lifetime on a procedural vote. They may vote against the bill. But I don't think they vote against it on cloture. Second, I've done a bit of writing on Medicare in the 1960s. In those days, there were Rockefeller Republicans, which don't exist anymore except for Snowe. Collins isn't really one of them. But a lot of the Republicans voted no. And many of them had buyer's remorse a year or two later. Some number thought later that that was the wrong vote. And pretty clearly it was the wrong vote. It may not be till the conference report. But I think we're going to see more votes than predicted.

Meanwhile, here's the official word from the White House, via a statement Rahm Emanuel Obama had Robert Gibbs hand out: “The President congratulates Senator Reid and Chairmen Baucus and Dodd for their hard work on health insurance reform. Thanks to their efforts, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to solving this decades-old problem. And while much work remains, the President is pleased that at the progress that Congress has made. He’s also pleased that the Senate has decided to include a public option for health coverage, in this case with an allowance for states to opt out. As he said to Congress and the nation in September, he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition.”

But... even knowing that Reid has spoken to all members of the caucus in the last week and even knowing what a cautious guy he is about presenting legislation that can't pass... Well, the question is this? Is he telling Blanche Lincoln that if she doesn't vote for cloture-- we don't need her on the bill, just on cloture to shut down the GOP filibuster-- she can't get her pony (her pony being the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the source of all riches and power in her hideous world). Or did he make a side deal with Ben Nelson that if Nelson kills the bill with a vote against cloture, Reid will pull out a "new bill" with one word changed-- an opt in instead of an opt out, the Insurance Industry's demand? I think we'll wait on the contributions thing until we see how those scenarios go down.

Meanwhile, let's drink a toast to Harry Reid and sing a little song written when John McCain was just starting his life-long dependence on government healthcare and still riding his burro around Panama. Eubie Blake did the music and Noble Sissle did the lyrics and it started out as a tune for the Broadway play, Shuffle Along. (The song has some historic importance beyond being the first Broadway play with African-American writers and an all African-American cast to be a financial success; the song itself-- which was the big hit in the play, broke what had been one of those hysterical conservative taboos against stage depictions of romantic love between African-Americans.) Tonight it's for the Senate Majority Leader:

UPDATE: Oh, And On The Latest GOP Talking Point...

Suddenly Roland was babbling to me today about cost containment. "Which right-wing radio station were you listening to on the way home?" I asked. He claims he thought it up himself. No one likes admitting-- unless they're at a teabagger rally-- that they parrot Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, let alone Paul Broun or Michele Bachmann. Peter Orszag, Director of the OMB, would be a far better source to parrot. Unlike the others, he actually knows what he's talking about and he's always been adamant that "reducing health care cost growth is the key to our fiscal future."
[B]ecause of the long-standing (and sometimes warranted) skepticism toward government, the fiscal irresponsibility of recent years, or just the generalized jaundiced view that journalists often like to project-- every few days, there seems to be another commentator who fails to believe that we can pass deficit-neutral health insurance reform that also puts us on a path to reduce the deficit over the long term.    
Fred Hiatt in today’s Washington Post is the latest of these naysayers, writing in his column that the two biggest steps that can be taken to reduce the rate of health care cost growth-- changes in health care’s tax treatment and an independent Medicare commission-- are missing. I agree with Hiatt on the potential substantial benefits in terms of cost containment from these two changes. But a note to readers who have not read their Washington Post the past few weeks: the Senate Finance Committee bill includes both of these measures.
Indeed, that committee’s final mark creates an excise tax on insurance companies offering high-premium plans-- which would create a strong incentive for more efficient plans that would help reduce the growth of premiums. And it establishes a Medicare commission-- which would develop and submit proposals to Congress aimed at extending the solvency of Medicare, slowing Medicare cost growth, and improving the quality of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries.
If the concern is that these two provisions would not survive the rest of the congressional process, then say that-- rather than suggesting that they aren’t already reflected in legislation.
Moreover, as I blogged a couple of weeks ago, the Senate Finance Committee’s bill is not the only measure that includes important cost constraining provisions. The other bills in the House also include provisions that experts from across the spectrum agree will help transform health care so that it delivers higher quality care and constrains cost growth. From penalties for hospitals with high, preventable 30-day readmission rates to encouraging the establishment of accountable care organizations and bundled payments for high-cost, chronic conditions, these bills undertake many of the reforms that hold the most promise for controlling costs and boosting quality.

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At 5:55 PM, Blogger Procopius said...

Fred Hiatt makes me think Rubert Murdoch is in negotiations to buy the Washington Post. Under his leadership the WaPo has changed from a reasonably good newspaper to a neocon propaganda rag (especially on their op-ed page). Fred should be given no credibility at all on any subject.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Interesting idea, Roger. I don't think there's any doubt that our Fred could work well with Rupert. But why should Rupert have to spend his hard-squeezed money when the Post is already so close to a News Corp paper?


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