This week's biggest health care story shouldn't even be making headlines: Democratic leaders in the Senate are finally pressuring the entire caucus to help bring a health care bill to the floor by sticking with the party on procedural motions. Astute readers will ask: "But aren't Senators supposed to stick with their party on procedural motions?" Yes, of course they are.
Health care reform is the Democrats' biggest political battle in two generations and the crown jewel of the president's domestic agenda. It's hardly unreasonable to demand that Senate Democrats side with their party to defeat a filibuster.
Democrats knew Republicans would filibuster a health care bill no matter what. So the central political question was how to thwart them. The options were: Pick off enough Republican votes to defeat a filibuster, pass the bill with a simple majority through budget reconciliation, or demand that all 60 Democratic senators vote as a bloc to defeat a filibuster. (These senators could still vote against the bill, if they so chose, but without a filibuster the bill would pass by majority vote.) The first strategy failed spectacularly, and the second was controversial and difficult to execute. The last option is the simplest and most obvious. It's scandalous that it took Senate leadership all summer to lay down the law.
At TAPPED, Mori Dinauer argues that "'moderates' who are holding out are uninterested in how their intransigence looks to the rest of the Democratic party, but knowing the pressure's on makes it all the more likely reform passes a floor vote." They don't care how it looks, but they certainly care if the party leadership is prepared to cut off their fund raising dollars to make a point.
A bill is beginning to seem like a fait accompli to some Democrats, but the opponents of health reform aren't giving up without a fight, reports Christina Bellantoni in Talking Points Memo. The GOP-allied Tea Party Express is undertaking a massive fund raising drive for "The Countdown to Judgment Day," which is one year to the day before the 2010 elections. The Tea Party Express is a major force behind the disruptive town hall health care protests.
In Salon, Mike Madden argues that the prospects for passing a bill with a public option are looking up as Democrats begin the horsetrading that will combine the various health bills passed by Congress into a single piece of legislation:
Congressional aides and outside activists say the White House is still pushing for the public option in private talks. A growing number of Democrats in the Senate say they think the bill will include some form of public option, including Majority Leader Harry Reid and health committee chairman Tom Harkin. "President Obama has said all along that the public health insurance option is his first choice" for making health insurance affordable, said Jacki Schechner, a spokeswoman for Health Care for America Now, a union-backed coalition that supports reform. "We want to make sure he gets his first choice."
Switzerland and the Netherlands are frequently cited as examples of countries that contain costs and cover everyone without a public option. However, as The Nation's Eyal Press explains, these countries have only managed to do so by eliminating for-profit health insurance, which in the American context, would be a far more radial solution than a public option.
In Mother Jones, James Ridgeway takes the New York Times to task for a story about the conflicts within the AARP over health reform. Members in their fifties have a different perspective on private vs. public health insurance than those over 65 who already qualify for Medicare. As Ridgeway explains, it's the status quo that's pitting Americans of different ages against each other. If Medicare covered everyone, age would cease to be a third rail in future health policy discussions.
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