photo: u.s. senate
The majority Democrats are now at a point where the minority Republicans and a handful of turncoats from their own party are going to permit them to open debate on health care reform in the Senate. Is this really cause for celebration? With a Democrat in the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress, this Democratic Party appears to be so weak that it’s barely able to open debate on a bill that nearly 60% of America wants? And this, after the country gave them their majority on a promise of change?
With one-third of the Senate and all of the House up for re-election next year they would be well-advised to get something meaningful done or it could lead to a political Dunkirk at the polls. It’s also possible that they could fail even if they succeed.
They could pass a bill with a public option that’s so watered down that it’s nearly meaningless. That may not be enough for those millions of Americans who voted for change. Real change, like a public option that squeezes the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries so hard that they are forced to lower their prices to more reasonable levels
One independent and a handful of what are being called “moderate” Democrats are standing in the way. The moderate Democrats in this case are actually conservatives and nothing short of Republicans posing as members of the Democratic Party, so lets call them “Republicrats.” Of course, this is an issue no one wants to address. They can’t take the turncoats on because they need these people to get their 60 votes and that will probably mean a compromise on the public option and that will mean watering down the bill.
The independent in this equation, smilin’ Joe Lieberman, has 64,000 constituents working for insurance companies back in his home state of Connecticut, so you can forget about him doing anything but taking the company line handed down by his corporate bosses.
Then there are the three Republicrats posing as Democrats, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas – who voted to open debate on the bill even though they say they have serious problems with it and want substantive changes. What changes?
It’s not single payer insurance (Medicare for all) that has them worried. Nor are they up in arms over simply allowing Americans to buy government-run insurance. No, their big hang up is with a provision that would allow Americans to buy government-run insurance only if and when their individual states decide to “opt-in” and allow it. It’s probably fair to assume that these three legislators are feeling a bit of pressure from 1) the health insurance and pharma industries that have contributed heavily to their campaigns and 2) the folks back home, older folks and Republicans in particular. And they need older voters and Republicans, if they want to stay in office.
For these three Dems then, it’s a question of keeping older voters and Republican constituents happy by maintaining the status quo. Seeing to it that the United States, one of the wealthiest nations on earth, remains the only industrialized nation without some form of meaningful universal health care. Or, they could take the high road and risk losing their jobs by voting for meaningful health care reform. In doing so, they would be supporting the majority of the people of the United States, their party and their President. It’s their self-interest vs. the best interest of their party the nation.
According to the Center for American Progress –“The Congressional Budget Office projects that the cost of a family premium under employer-provided health insurance will increase by approximately 70 percent (after inflation) in the next nine years. This cost growth will have cascading effects across the economy as businesses trim benefits and workers lose their coverage.”
The first step down the road to economic recovery may involve containing and controlling the cost of health care. It’s the charge the Democrats were put in office to carry out. If they fail to do so, with a compromise that keeps the Republicrats in the Senate happy but leads to a feeble public option or no public option at all, they will in all likelihood be punished at the polls and Mr. Obama will be forced to serve out the remainder of his term being regarded as the President who lost the fight for meaningful health care reform because he was unable to garner the support of his own party.