Thanks, Howard

Mike Enzi quotes Howard Dean. Predictable.

Listening to the Republicans rant about health care on the Senate floor.  Mike Enzi cites Howard Dean, which puts him in the same “useful idiot” category as David Broder and the editors of the Washington Post.

All the Republicans seem to agree on two things:

1. Heath care spending must be cut.

2.  Anything that actually reduces spending necessarily hurts either providers or consumers, and is therefore an evil Democrat scheme.

It’s also astounding to hear Republicans complaining about not being able to spend Christmas with their families, when all they have to do to get home is STFU and let the majority vote.

White smoke?

It looks like there are now sixty votes in the Senate to pass the healthcare bill: all of them Democrats. Now can we end the filibuster?

Don’t look now, but it seems Harry Reid has his 60 votes.   I wouldn’t be stunned if Joe Lieberman defected again when the bill comes back from conference, but right now the bill is set to pass on Christmas Eve.  The Republicans will vote in lock-step against even letting the bill come up for a vote, and in the meantime will continue their temper tantrum, using every procedural trick to further delay the vote.

To my eyes, a national non-profit plan negotiated with the Office of Personnel Management looks just as good as a public option.  The abortion deal is a kludge, but apparently not a terrible kludge.

I think Obama was right to find out whether the Republicans wanted to act as an opposition; as it turned out, they want to act as an obstruction instead.  There’s no need now to repeat the experiment.

Megan McArdle is right that this is the first time such a major bill has passed on a strict party-line vote. (Glenn Reynolds is wrong to expect – or is it hope? – that the result will be extra-legal resistance.)  That sets up the 2010 and 2012 elections as referenda on health care.   I expect that Ralph Nader will continue to help the reactionaries, as he always does; I hope that Howard Dean will think better of it.

And now that we’ve had experience with what it means to give Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman veto power, it’s time to start talking seriously about taking down Senate Rule XXII, which allows the filibuster.  A determined opposition should be allowed to delay, but in the end a determined majority should be able to work its will.  Since the Rule XXII requires sixty-seven votes to change Rule XXII, the only way to fix the problem is for the Vice-President to rule, at the beginning of a Congress, that the Senate is not a “continuing body,” and that in each Congress the Senate, like the House, must pass its rules afresh.

Which side are they on?

What does Bernie Sanders think he’s doing?

Howard Dean, Bernie Sanders, and approximately one gazillion left-bloggers have now decided to join Joe Lieberman, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, the teabaggers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Murdoch media empire, and all the health insurance companies to defeat health care reform.

The strategy of imposing costs

Harry Reid may have to give in to blackmail from Lieberman and Snowe. But he should make them pay a price.

It looks as if there’s going to be no alternative to caving in to Joe Lieberman’s blackmail if we want a heath care bill.   And having done so, Reid won’t even have an excuse to kick Lieberman out of the caucus.  Nor is it clear that he’d want to; just this week Lieberman was the 60th vote for cloture on the debt ceiling extension.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remember what he did, or that revenge is a dish which persons of taste prefer to consume cold.

Hadassah Lieberman makes a lot of money lobbying for Aetna. Joe Lieberman gets a ton of campaign contributions from Aetna.   I don’t know whether that connection explains Lieberman’s subservience to the interests of the health insurance industry, but Aetna no doubt thinks it’s buying influence with Holy Joe.

In addition to its interest in policies general to insurers, Aetna no doubt has lots of particular interests:  lots of things it wants the Congress to do, or not do.  If I were Harry Reid, I’d make sure that, from now on, Aetna loses on every single one of those issues, and I’d tell Aetna why.

Related thought:   If the only reason we need Lieberman’s vote is because Olympia Snowe doesn’t want to play.  Fine.  Reid should figure out some provision Snowe really, really wants in the bill, or doesn’t want in the bill, and tell her that if she forces to deal with Lieberman that provision is going to come out the way she doesn’t want it to come out.

The kind of stunt Lieberman and Snowe are pulling shouldn’t be free.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Move-On wants progressives to try to kill the health care reform bill.

MoveOn has decided that since the health care bill coming out of the Senate doesn’t have the label “public option,” the best thing to do would be to kill it, or threaten to kill it.

Here’s the email I got, with the header “Unacceptable”:

Dear MoveOn member,

How could they?

Senate Democrats have just announced a tentative health care deal that doesn’t appear to include a real public health insurance option.

Instead of pulling out all the stops, they’ve bargained away the heart of health care reform—allowing conservative senators like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to hold the process hostage and protect Big Insurance.

And sure enough, the insurance companies are reportedly thrilled with these terms. “We WIN,” one industry insider said during the negotiations. “No government insurance competitor.”

If the health care bill doesn’t include a public option, it’ll be a huge giveaway to the insurance companies. But the deal isn’t final yet, so we need to send an immediate message to Congress and President Obama that any health care bill without a real public health insurance option is simply unacceptable.

So we’ve set a goal of making 524 calls to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer’s offices from people in Los Angeles. Can you call and tell them that reform must include a public option, and urge them not to give into conservatives and Big Insurance?

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

http://pol.moveon.org/call?tg=FSCA_1.FSCA_2&cp_id=1201&id=18214-9189377-.IP9acx&t=2

Details are still emerging about this new deal. According to The Washington Post, “the government plan preferred by liberals would be replaced with a program that would create several national insurance policies administered by private companies.”

But half-measures simply won’t cut it: we desperately need a real public option in order to hold private insurance companies accountable. That’s far more important than appeasing Joe Lieberman and his friends in the insurance industry.

And this fight isn’t over yet, no matter how many times the media tries to declare the death of the public option. It’d only take one or two senators to unravel this deal, and progressive senators Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders both indicated last night that their support can’t be taken for granted.

So to win, we’ve got to send a powerful message to congressional Democrats and President Obama that we won’t accept this deal. Instead of giving up on the public option, they ought to show real leadership and ratchet up the pressure on Lieberman and any Democratic senators who are threatening to filibuster.

Thanks for all you do.

“Unravel this deal”?!

I don’t expect activists to be policy wonks, but I do expect a certain amount of political savvy from them. I’m not sure whether the Move-On leadership thinks this is really smart tactics, or whether they figure that stirring up trouble keeps their membership active and happy.

In either case, it seems to me that killing the bill would be terminally stupid, and encouraging the Democratic netroots base to regard what would in fact be a great progressive coup – something that ought to energize them as we go into the coming election year – as instead a defeat wouldn’t be much smarter.

So instead of signing the petition, I unsubscribed from the Move-On list, and sent an email saying why.

A good bargain

Instead of a “public option”: Medicare buy-in for those 55-64, Medicaid up to 150% of poverty, an a private health plan or plans negotiated nationally by the Office of Personnel Management.

The best use of the “public option” is as a bargaining chip.

Looks as if the Senate liberals are driving a pretty hard bargain:

–  Medicare buy-in for those between 55 and 64.

– Medicaid coverage up to 150% of the poverty line in all states.

– A national private plan or plans to be negotiated by the federal Office of Personnel Management, which negotiates the federal employee plans.

If this works out as well as it seems it might, a bunch of people are going to owe Harry Reid an apology.