Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are Democrats Failing on Health Care?

Many people are wondering why Senate Democrats are still trying to overcome the standard GOP filibuster requiring sixty votes for cloture.  The main alternative in the news is to go for reconciliation.  But that route is not the simple solution some portray it to be.

Senate The single biggest complaint I hear by non-DC insiders is the sheer dysfunction of Washington. Whether it's Jon Stewart's very funny interview with Joe Biden the other day, or bloggers attacking Harry Reid for not just wrapping the health care issue up by going to reconciliation, people not involved in the day to day DC maneuvering and negotiating don't understand why all this is so hard and takes so long. Insiders get very grumpy about this attitude, because they have to deal every day with the complications of the Senate procedural rules, the egos and turf battles of the powerful committee chairs, and the traditions and clubbiness of the Senate.

I have a lot of sympathy for people on both sides of the divide. Having served in the White House, and been in DC for 17 years now, I know how hard it is to get things done in this town. And having read my share of history books, I know how hard it is to get big things done in general - it just doesn't happen very often, and it is never ever easy or painless. But I also know this: if Democrats don't deliver now, there will be no excuses. They have to find a way to deliver the goods. History, the media, activists, and voters will offer them no mercy if they can't get health reform done this time around.

So if failure is not an option, and there are four holdout Democrats [Wrong! Three DINOs and one pig!] in the Senate blocking the way to getting a reform bill the rest of the Democratic Party can live with, what is to be done?

A lot of people, including me, have been saying for a while that those four Senators would probably eventually force Reid to use the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes, and in the end they still might because there might be no other option. But a lot of the more liberal Democrats in the Senate (including Harkin, Rockefeller, and Schumer) have started arguing against that option. Their reasons include that the bill would have to be dramatically scaled back to fit within the reconciliation rule, the process would likely be slowed down making pending legislation tougher to pass, and that the bill would have to be referred to Kent Conrad's rather conservative budget committee where all kinds of bad things might happen to it. There are also an undetermined number of otherwise more progressive Senators such as Robert Byrd and Russ Feingold who believe putting health care in reconciliation violates the spirit of reconciliation rules, and would vote against the bill on principle.

These are pretty compelling arguments, so my view is that progressives should not be demanding that Harry Reid put this bill through the reconciliation process. In the end, he may have no other choice, but to demand that before he has had the chance to pursue every other option makes no sense to me. To say Harry Reid - or the President or anyone else - can just force the bill through no matter what is simply not true. The American government, just doesn't work that way… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Alternet>

The Republicans passed many things by reconciliation, but the difference is that they always goose step together.  The Democratic Party encompasses almost the entire political spectrum and lacks the Senate leadership needed to pull them together.  Health care is not the only problem.  Even the most recent veterans bill that passed on the Senate floor 98-0 was stalled for weeks, because Coburn held it up.  Then just bring it to a vote took a full three days of floor debate, including overcoming three separate GOP filibusters.  When Democrats filibustered only the most egregious of the Texas Tyrant’s ideologue judicial nominees, the Republicans threatened a “nuclear option”, changing the Senate rules to outlaw the filibuster on judicial nominees.  But in the 110th Congress, Republicans more than doubled the previous record for filibusters, and now in the 111th, they’re on track to break that record.  The Republicans have crippled our government by filibustering every measure, even those without controversy, and sixty votes had become the de facto requirement to pass anything.  The filibuster was never intended to be used in this manner.  Enter Alan Grayson.  He has proposed to the Nevada Leg Hound, Harry Reid, that the rules be changed to require fifty five, not sixty, votes to overcome a filibuster.  The GOP cannot filibuster this rule change, so a simple fifty one vote majority is all that is required to pass it.  Last night, Keith Olbermann interviewed him.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

The time has come to end this abuse, and I fully support Grayson’s suggestion.  I tried to visit the link Grayson gave, but it’s not there.  If any of you have it, please enter it in a comment.

To me this approach makes far more sense that reconciliation.


the walking man said...

This is the addy for Grayson's petition.

TomCat said...

Mark, have you been there? When I enter it I get a page not found error.

the walking man said...

Tom I copied and pasted the email as it is from the above link into a new window and it took me right to it.

Stop Senate Stalling!

Why should launching wars and cutting taxes for the rich require only 50 votes while saving lives requires 60?

Join me in calling for an end to this unfair system. Tell Majority Leader Reid to modify the rules of the Senate to require only 55 votes to invoke cloture instead of 60. Fill out the form below to sign the petition today!
Dear Majority Leader Reid:

Our party was elected in 2008 with a mandate from the country for major change, from saving the economy to fixing health care. Since then, the House of Representatives has worked hard to pass this ambitious agenda, only to see it stalled by no-mongering Republicans in the Senate. Just the list of bills passed by the House and now waiting in the Senate runs to three pages, single-spaced.

The Senate argues this is a result of their different procedures. The House requires a majority vote to pass legislation, while the Senate supposedly requires a supermajority of 60. But this rule of legislative procedure apparently only applies to Democratic initiatives that help ordinary people. Throughout the administration of President George W. Bush, the Senate passed much of its key legislation by majority vote:

* The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 passed 54-44
* The Energy Policy Act of 2003 passed 57-40
* The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 passed 51-49
* The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 passed 54-44
* The FY2006 budget resolution and Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 passed 52-47
* The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act passed 55-45
* The FY2007 budget resolution passed 51-49

Today, under the administration of President Barack Obama, the House has passed bills preventing climate destruction and reforming our broken health care system, while the Senate searches for 60 votes in the face of Republican obstruction. Every day the Senate delays, more people die from lack of health care.

The filibuster should apply to the initiatives of both parties or to neither. Why should launching wars, and cutting taxes for the rich, require only 51 votes while saving lives requires 60?

Since the Democrats regained control of the Senate, Republicans have abused the filibuster rule like never before. Until 1970, no session of Congress had more than ten votes on cloture to end a filibuster. Until 2007, the record was 58. But since Democrats regained control of the Senate, filibusters have skyrocketed. The last session had a new record of 112.

The filibuster does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. If the Founding Fathers had wanted it, they would have included it. Instead, this undemocratic rule allows small-state Senators representing as little as 11 percent of the country to thwart the will of the other 89 percent. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes needed to end a filibuster from 67 to 60. Now, with the Party of No blocking majority rule on virtually everything the country needs, we need to do it again.

We therefore call upon you to end this unfair system by using your power as Majority Leader to modify the rules of the Senate, to require only 55 votes to invoke cloture instead of 60. Only by doing so can we end delay that has held up so much crucial legislation, and enact the agenda that we promised the American people that we would enact.
Optional Member Code

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Last Name
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1-25 of 8381 signatures

Punkypenny said...

Yes it works for me too.

Marva said...

The link worked for me with a copy/paste from Walking Man.

TomCat said...

Thanks Mark, Penny and Marva. It appears that the site is not compatible with IE7. I get there fine using Firefox, but I had to stop using it as my main browser, because the latest upgrade conflicts with my firewall.

Congrats, Penny, on being visitor number 17,000.