As you know, I post a lot of political things here on this blog. It’s what I’m interested in and I like writing down my thoughts and opinions. Lately, one of the biggest things in US politics has been the healthcare debate. There’s a lot to digest. Here are my thoughts.
The House of Representatives
The House passed it’s version of the health care bill back in November. For the most part it’s a decent bill. It’s got the public option. According to the CBO, having the public option in the bill saves the most money and covers the most people. The end of discussion on that. Anything less than the public option in the bill will cover less people and cost more money. Also, mind you, the public option is supported by the majority of the people – see any reputable poll on the subject. One particular problem with the House bill is that won’t cover abortions – via the Stupak amendment that did get passed. If you believe in a woman’s right to choose, then this is a bad thing.
Uh, the Senate. The Senate is still trying to get a bill passed. The problem in the Senate, as compared to the House, is that due to a filibuster threat from the Republicans, the Democrats need a filibuster-proof vote count of 60 to get the bill passed. The good news is that the Senate has a filibuster-proof majority, but only by the smallest possible margin: 0. The problem, therefore, is that if any one of those Senators decides, or rather threatens, to not vote for the bill, the whole thing falls apart. That, if you aren’t aware, is what’s happening. You have people like Joe Lieberman of Connecticut who are threatening to vote against the bill if it has a public option basically just to seem important and in general be a dick. So, Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is being a big pussy and getting rid of the public option in order to please a few Senators. This is disheartening to progressives, such as myself.
A quick tangent. I mentioned that the Senate would need a majority to get this bill passed. That’s not exactly true. There are a few other options. Namely, cloture and reconciliation. Voting for cloture basically just means voting to end debate on a bill. You can vote in favor of cloture and not in favor of the actual bill. Reconciliation is immune to filibusters and therefore would only need a simple majority to pass – 51 or 50 (tie) + the Vice President’s tiebreaking vote. There’s a lot more to it, but the point is, it’s possible to pass the bill with just 51 votes. So far, the Senate has chosen not to go this route. Though I don’t know why exactly. Which sucks.
So now we’re not getting the public option in the Senate bill. Instead, what we’re getting is, well, we’re not really sure yet. That’s sort of in flux at the moment. From what I’ve read, instead of the public option, the Senate bill will: allow people over 55 to enroll in Medicare, create something like what the members of Congress get for health coverage – the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and would create a public option trigger that would go into effect if certain targets aren’t met.
Trigger’s are pointless. There has never been a trigger put into place that wasn’t designed to never be pulled. A trigger has been an idea floating around for a while now. Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s Chief of Staff, has been pushing for a trigger ever since the health care debate started. Olympica Snowe, the liberalish Republican from Maine also pushed for the trigger. Snowe’s plans for the trigger would save around 10-15 billion as compared to over 100 billion with the public option. That’s not to say that this trigger is the same, could be a little better, could be a little worse. Regardless, it’s not going to save as much as a public option. Which, to me, is the point. Whatever covers the most people and saves the most money – do that.
That all being said, the public option isn’t the entire health care bill. There’s a lot of good stuff in there – a lot of reform. Just not as much as there could be. Or really, should be. Does that mean that it should be scrapped altogether? Probably not. But it’s still hard not to be disappointed.
One good thing from the Senate bill is that Ben Nelson’s Stupak-esque amendment was defeated – by way of a table vote.
All of that is to say that there’s still a lot to do. The Senate has to pass their version of the bill. Then it has to be merged with the House bill. Then it has to be passed by both houses. Then it has to be signed by the President. So, suffice to say, still a lot to do.