Thursday, March 11, 2010

Give 'em Hell, Harry

I have been (justifiably) harsh in my comments about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his unwillingness to stand up to Republicans and use the authority vested in the majority by the Constitution and voters. Therefore, it is only fair and right to give credit when Harry gets one right.

Today he sent a letter to Minority leader Mitch McConnell. The jist of it is below, taken from Ezra Klein's blog on the Washington Post website:

Though we have tried to engage in a serious discussion, our efforts have been met by repeatedly debunked myths and outright lies. At the same time, Republicans have resorted to extraordinary legislative maneuvers in an effort not to improve the bill, but to delay and kill it. After watching these tactics for nearly a year, there is only one conclusion an objective observer could make: these Republican maneuvers are rooted less in substantive policy concerns and more in a partisan desire to discredit Democrats, bolster Republicans, and protect the status quo on behalf of the insurance industry.[...]

60 Senators voted to pass historic reform that will make health insurance more affordable, make health insurance companies more accountable and reduce our deficit by roughly a trillion dollars. The House passed a similar bill. However, many Republicans now are demanding that we simply ignore the progress we’ve made, the extensive debate and negotiations we’ve held, the amendments we’ve added (including more than 100 from Republicans) and the votes of a supermajority in favor of a bill whose contents the American people unambiguously support. We will not. We will finish the job. We will do so by revising individual elements of the bills both Houses of Congress passed last year, and we plan to use the regular budget reconciliation process that the Republican caucus has used many times.

I know that many Republicans have expressed concerns with our use of the existing Senate rules, but their argument is unjustified. There is nothing unusual or extraordinary about the use of reconciliation. As one of the most senior Senators in your caucus, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, said in explaining the use of this very same option, “Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so.” Similarly, as non-partisan congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein said in this Sunday’s New York Times, our proposal is “compatible with the law, Senate rules and the framers’ intent.”

Reconciliation is designed to deal with budget-related matters, and some have expressed doubt that it could be used for comprehensive health care reform that includes many policies with no budget implications. But the reconciliation bill now under consideration would not be the vehicle for comprehensive reform – that bill already passed outside of reconciliation with 60 votes. Instead, reconciliation would be used to make a modest number of changes to the original legislation, all of which would be budget-related. There is nothing inappropriate about this. Reconciliation has been used many times for a variety of health-related matters, including the establishment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and COBRA benefits, and many changes to Medicare and Medicaid.

As you know, the vast majority of bills developed through reconciliation were passed by Republican Congresses and signed into law by Republican Presidents – including President Bush’s massive, budget-busting tax breaks for multi-millionaires. Given this history, one might conclude that Republicans believe a majority vote is sufficient to increase the deficit and benefit the super-rich, but not to reduce the deficit and benefit the middle class. Alternatively, perhaps Republicans believe a majority vote is appropriate only when Republicans are in the majority. Either way, we disagree. Keep in mind that reconciliation will not exclude Republicans from the legislative process. You will continue to have an opportunity to offer amendments and change the shape of the legislation. In addition, at the end of the process, the bill can pass only if it wins a democratic, up-or-down majority vote. If Republicans want to vote against a bill that reduces health care costs, fills the prescription drug “donut hole” for seniors and reduces the deficit, you will have every right to do so.

That's about as close to "We're going to shove this bill up your ass if we have to" as any letter between senators is likely to get.


Charlieopera said...

If only Harry and his friends had come to this conclusion a year ago when they had the political capital to initiate genuine reform. This is what happens with politics as usual; the bill they'll pass is so watered down and something Insurance Companies stand to benefit by (30,000,000 new customers--we all pay for their profit). Single payer was dropped like a hot cake and this crap bill will somehow be regarded as "health care reform" ("historical legislation" Fredo can hang his hat on).

He gets no credit from me. None of those clowns do. Eventually they'll pass some minor banking regulation and take credit for fixing that problem however many months after the disaster they insisted was caused by a lack of oversight ... and after rushing to back George Bush's bailout of Wall Street (never mind appointing Goldman Sachs to run the treasury).

And what's up with that repealing of "don't ask/don't tell" ... a quick flurry (a bone Fredo threw the left) and then it's gone.

The dark cloud of "fact(s)" remains over both parties.

Incremental change in 2010 is horseshit (excuse the French). National health care and genuine equal rights ... if most of Europe can figure it out, what's up with the party of the people?

What's wrong is they're a slightly lesser form of the party of big business.

Dana King said...

You're right, but I'd rather have a watered down bill that has potential to be built upon than no bill at all. There are people who need insurance, and a lot of people who have insurance they can't depend on. This will help.

If they pass it.

Charlieopera said...

I wish I could agree, Dana. I'm with Howard Dean on this. It is a bone the Insurance companies are giving the Dems and nothing more than that. Now it'll give them an excuse to wait another 30 years before they try for single payer.

Fredo blew it. I'm happy more people will be covered but let's see how many with existing pre-conditions are actually covered (and all the rest of the details they're hiding from everybody) ... in 4 years, when it first takes effect (and what's up with that)?

I'm afraid (and I hope I'm wrong but seriously doubt it) that this incremental change that doesn't hurt Insurance companies at all, will help to stall further progress on national health insurance. And in four years time anything can happen ... who knows, maybe they'll repeal don't ask don't tell.

I can't help being sarcastic when it comes to the Democratic Party. They're aren't outright evil like the Republican Party ... they're just slick about it.