Monday, November 23, 2009

Heath Care: The Victory That Wasn't. . .

Saturday night, Obama won a dramatic victory. . . his health care plan cleared THE hurdle. . . nothing can stop it now. At least, that’s how CNN interpreted the Senate vote on the Baucus bill. So is CNN right? Hardly, and by Sunday morning, the Baucus goggles had worn off and reality was setting in. ObamaCare is no closer to becoming law. All the impasses remain. All Harry Reid (left, fondling his package) got was a little PR from the likes of CNN to make his stupider followers happy. And the price he paid? Three Democrats got to expose themselves to their voters, and Reid may have made passage even more difficult.

What The Vote Really Means Procedurally
Since few in the press are explaining the current process in the Senate correctly, if at all, let me explain what happened Saturday. The Senate did not pass the bill, nor did it set the bill up for a straight up 50% +1 vote. The Senate voted 60-39 to open debate on the Baucus bill. That’s it.

This means that for the next three plus weeks, the Senate will debate this bill. Each Senator can have their say and can attempt to add any amendments to the bill that they want, like taking out the public option or allocating $500 million to study whether or not cows would buy pornography if they had greater access to credit cards.

At the end of those three weeks, the Senate will vote on whether or not to close debate and proceed to a vote. This is the part CNN didn’t seem to get. Unless (and until) the Senate can get 60 votes to close the debate, there will be no vote. No vote, no bill.
But Dingy Harry’s Got The Sixty Votes Right?
Does Harry Reid have the 60 votes needed to close debate? Nope. He had 60 to open debate, because that was an easy vote. It was an easy vote because it didn’t require any of the Democrats to give up their conflicting views on what the final Senate bill should look like. It was just a vote to keep talking. And no one on their side can afford to be seen stopping this debate before the final monster takes shape. Only then can they give reasons why they decided not to unstrap the beast.

Indeed, had Lieberman (or any of the “moderate” Democrats) voted “no” on the basis that it included a public option, he would have faced the charge that it remained uncertain that it would have included a public option and that he prematurely killed the bill. So the vote makes sense. But it’s also a meaningless vote. Because this vote did not require anyone to compromise, it also didn’t solve any of the impasse issues.

Just like Pelosi’s “victory” in the House did nothing to resolve the conflicts that doom PelosiCare in the House, Saturday’s vote did nothing to resolve the conflict that dooms Baucus in the Senate. Within the Senate, THE impasse issue is the public option. And unless that’s solved, there will be no vote to close debate and proceed to a vote. Right now, there is no solution to that impasse.

As we’ve pointed out before, the key Senator to focus on remains Joe Lieberman. Lieberman voted to open debate but remains on record stating that he will filibuster this bill as long as it contains a public option. Lieberman opposes the public option because:
“A public option is a radical departure from the way we’ve responded to the market in America in the past. We rely first on competition in our market economy. When the competition fails then what do we do? We regulate or we litigate.”
To get his vote to close debate, the Democrats must eliminate the public option. Yet, without a public option, other Democrats have stated that they will walk away from the bill. The Democrats have no margin of error at all in this vote, i.e. they need all 60 votes. Hence, Baucus remains at an impasse.

Will they eventually find a solution? That’s not clear. They might eventually find a solution that allows them to close the debate. For example, I remain concerned that Sen. Olympia Snowe might vote for closure if the Democrats add a trigger for the public option, but there doesn’t seem to be much support for that. Says Sen. Bernie Sanders (Socialist-Ben&Jerry’s):
"I strongly suspect that there are a number of senators, including myself, who would not support final passage without a strong public option."
So at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be a solution. And Reid’s cheap victory won’t help. Cheap victories tend to come at a high price. By pushing the bill forward so that Reid can claim to have taken action this year, Reid put a time limit on himself for resolving the impasse problem. Rather than having as long as he needed to find an acceptable compromise, he now has only 3-4 weeks to resolve this matter or the bill dies in the Senate. Not very smart Harry.

There was another price to pay too. Reid’s action exposed three of his fellow travelers as faux-moderates. Indeed, to get the sixty votes, Reid needed the agreement of three “moderate” Democrats: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Mutual of Omaha), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Southern Comfort), and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Perdue). Each claimed to be unhappy with the public option -- as are their constituents. But they also showed that they would sell out their constituents.

For example, in what is being called The Louisiana Purchase, Landrieu sold her vote for $300 million in disaster relief for the state of New Orleans. Nelson sold his vote for a promise that the evil insurance companies against whom Obama has railed, many of which coincidentally are located in his state of Nebraska, would not lose their anti-trust protection. And Blanche got to avoid making a decision, something near and dear to her heart -- she's under heavy fire from both sides.

Interestingly, each of these faux-moderate Democrats promptly went on record to state that they are opposed to the current bill blah blah blah. Though, I wouldn’t take that too seriously. This is just “I voted for it, before I voted against it!” all over again. They’ll “reluctantly” support closure and then oppose the bill, knowing that it will pass over their “opposition.”

Yet, this buy off has raised the anger level in the Senate. Liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown (D-SEIU) of Ohio told CNN this weekend:
“In the end, I don’t want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it’s not going to be in it.”
Them’s fighting words. . . or demands for a share of the take. It's also an admission of how he sees the "independents."
This vote did nothing to solve the problem: 41 Senators currently oppose closure. Unless that changes, the Baucus bill can’t pass. And keep in mind, this still remains only the first round. Even if these fools manage to get enough votes to close debate, there is still the problem of mixing this bill with the House bill.

As we noted before, there are serious conflicts between the House version and the Senate version. The House bill is entirely unacceptable in the Senate, and the Senate bill is unacceptable in the House. Not to mention that Pelosi hasn’t solved her own problems. Indeed, Pelosi got the House bill passed only by pushing off decisions on several issues that create their own impasses in the House. Those need to be settled before the House can pass the final bill, and they don’t appear to have solutions. And even if they do, they will only exacerbate the conflicts with the Senate.

Right now, these bills face four impasses: the public option, the abortion issue, the illegal alien issue, and how to pay for the bill. These impasses exist in both chambers and between the chambers, with neither chamber seems likely to bend.

So while the Democrats want to declare this vote a victory, just as they declared Pelosi’s vote a victory, they might want to consider that they’ve achieved nothing yet except vote to agree to fight at a later date.

If I were a Democrat, I wouldn’t be celebrating. . . I’d be wondering why a party with such a massive majority in both chambers, and a President to guide them, can’t get its act together.


Joel Farnham said...


Let us hope the Democrat Party never gets it act together.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I agree. Fortunately, I see no signs that they ever will.

Writer X said...

Another thing this debate vote showed: who could be bought. It's pretty sickening that the dumbest (and most crooked) among us have such power and control. Look forward to watching Harry Reid drown in his own arrogance and stupidity.

Tennessee Jed said...

Another very thorough and fascinating review, Andrew. Fortunately, I was out of contact with much of the civilized world until later on Sunday. Of course, I haven't watched CNN since the first Gulf War either.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Thanks!

I don't normally watch CNN either, but I was in a hotel and it was the only channel giving news when I got there.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X,

Not only does it show who can be bought, but it also shows who will give up without even asking anything for their sell out!

I see that Reid's numbers keep going down. I will be so happy if he gets tossed out.

StanH said...

This is why if they can get this monstrosity through, it’ll be so hard to kill. Great read Andrew! I still say something is going to get through, lets pray it’s much diminished?

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Stan, glad you liked it.

If I had to bet, I would say that something will get through as well, but I doubt it will look like what they're doing right now.

Writer X said...

Andrew, so true. If nothing else, at the next go-around, all the dutiful senators will pout and stamp their feet until they get at least $300 million.

I think Reid is polling last in Nevada. As he should. Virtual drinks on me when he loses.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: I think they just might get some watered-down, but still destructive form of government-controlled socialized medicine. It will take some very good conservative politicians to undo the damage later. If we're not vigilant and active, the liberals will build on whatever crappy piece of legislation they do get, and keep building until America is unrecognizable.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, We'll have to have a virtual Commentarama Party! We should at least do a live blog on election night.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Like you, I suspect they will get something, though. . . you never know. Right now they're playing the "if I don't my way, I'm going home game." But that may change.

And you're right, it's going to take a very clever conservative plan to undo the damage. Fortunately, I'm feeling more and more each day that our side is up to the task!

patti said...

thanks for the article, andrew. well done. i'll link tomorrow. my fear is the same as law's: that they get some sort of crap thru which i think will embolden them. bastards.

captcha: glumstr (i pronounced it glumster)

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome Patti, glad you liked it. Thanks for the link!

CrispyRice said...

Good article, again, Andrew. You give me hope! LOL.

In any case, if it does fail, there's always another bright side. We can spend weeks claiming that evil Republicans were somehow to blame and just wanted to kill the poor and downtrodden. That'll be fun.

AndrewPrice said...

Good attitude CrispyRice, always looking on the bright side! LOL!

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