The votes in the Senate came down 60-40, as expected. Not one, not a single Republican voted for health care reform, not even GOP “turncoat” Snowe. Despite all the concessions — all the revisions — not one Republican cast a vote in favor of the American people early this morning. That is why I will stand beside Barack Obama and his allies on this bill. Not because I like the bill personally. Certain aspects of it already horrify me, and I haven’t even read the thing yet. But I will stand beside it because it is, at this time, the best we can do — and because it is likely better than we will be able to do in a year’s time. The people hollering “Kill the bill!” are as unrealistic as the ones who thought Ron Paul had a shot at the White House. The last time health care reform died in Congress, we didn’t get another shot at it for over a decade. What makes anyone think it will be any different next time around?
And the only reason we’ve gotten so far this time?
…That’s what it takes to get anything done in the Senate, and we only have that when we count traitors like Joe and conservadems like Nelson. That’s why a douchenozzle who supported John McCain for president and a jackass who represents a state with a population of less than two million are able to stall proceedings and manipulate everyone around them. Pitiful and infuriating as it is, we need them. And as horrible as they are, yes, they are still better than Republicans. They threw some wrenches in the works and stripped the bill of some of our favorite provisions, but in the end — when the kidnappers’ and would-be tyrants’ demands were met — they voted for it. The Republicans? Not so much.
The United States took a major step closer to the rest of the industrialized world shortly after 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning, voting 60-40 to move forward on far-reaching health care reform that will provide subsidies to million of Americans to purchase health care — and require all citizens to purchase health insurance or prove that they can not afford to do so. (More on the details of the bill here.)
The vote, which was taken in an unusual fashion, with senators seated and voting from their desks, split along party lines, with all 40 Republicans voting no. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) rose and announced her nay vote with an affect of regret in her voice.
Just one more Republican in the Senate — that’s all it would take, and nothing would have gotten done. We would have lost even this, which feels in some respects like such a small, bittersweet victory. And additional, identical votes are soon to come.
The roll was called shortly after 1 a.m., with Washington still snowbound after a weekend blizzard, and the Senate voted on party lines to cut off a Republican filibuster of a package of changes to the health care bill by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada.
The vote was 60 to 40 – a tally that is expected to be repeated four times as further procedural hurdles are cleared in the days ahead, and then once more in a dramatic, if predictable, finale tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Both parties hailed the vote as seismic.
And so it is. We are closer to having real health care reform than ever before, and Republicans are fighting it tooth and nail. For the insurance industry, for their ignorant constituencies, for the sake of obstinance, they are opposing it with all their might. If even one of our Senators (Lieberman and his ilk included) turns against us or is missing for one of the upcoming votes, we will be set back yet again.
Each side blamed the other for the extraordinary series of votes – at dawn Saturday, after midnight Monday, at dawn again on Tuesday, at 1 p.m. on Wednesday and finally on Christmas Eve, when most Americans will be sequestered for the holiday.
The Democrats charged the Republicans with obstinately throwing every procedural obstacle in their way, including filibusters and the full 30 hours of debate allowed under the rules after each filibuster is broken by a vote of 60 senators.
The Republicans charged the Democrats with recklessly rushing to adopt a dizzyingly complex 2,700-page bill that would affect virtually every American, and would reshape one-sixth of the nation’s economy at a cost of $871 billion over 10 years.
“If the Republicans want to exercise every single right they have under the rules, they can keep us here until Christmas Eve, no doubt about it,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “But to what end, I ask? To what end? We’re going to have the vote at 1 a.m. that requires 60 votes, and then why stay here until Christmas Eve to do what they know we’re going to do?”
Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said he and his colleagues had a duty to fight until the last minute.
“There is nothing inevitable about this,” Mr. Cornyn said. “The only thing I think inevitable about it is in the light of the unpopularity of what is being jammed down the throats of the American people, there will be a day of accounting. We don’t know when that day of accounting will be. Perhaps the first day of accounting will be Election Day 2010.”
It’s all about obstruction. It’s about preventing anything from getting done, but particularly health care reform. They want us to lose, and if we do, it will not just be Obama’s Waterloo. Republicans have no new ideas of their own, and they are looking to slink their way back into power by making Democrats appear ineffective. They plan to prey on those in the middle who remain indecisive, swing voters who will swing right back into their grasp in 2010 and 2012 if they don’t see things getting done.
In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.
Enmity and acrimony are coursing through a debate with tremendous consequences for both sides as well as for the legislative agenda in the months ahead.
Should Democrats prevail, it will put an exclamation point on an eventful first year of their control of Congress and the White House and leave Republicans on the Napoleonic side of what one predicted could be President Obama’s Waterloo. A Republican victory would invigorate an opposition party that was back on its heels at the beginning of 2009 and would strike a crushing blow to Democrats and their claims to governing.
There is no sense in killing the bill and starting over in the Senate. We will not get a single Republican vote for HCR, and we stand a good chance of losing conservadem votes. Things have gotten too nasty, and there is no reason to assume they will improve.
Members of both parties say the dispute over health care has created bad blood, left both Democrats and Republicans suspicious of the opposition’s motives, and shattered some of the institution’s traditional collegiality.
same time, Democrats say the apparently unbridgeable health care divide has convinced them that Republicans are dedicated solely to blocking legislative proposals for political purposes. Several said they now realized that they would have to rely strictly on their own caucus to advance such defining issues as climate change in 2010.
“We have crossed the mark of over 100 filibusters and acts of procedural obstruction in less than one year,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said on the floor Sunday. “Never since the founding of the Republic, not even in the bitter sentiments preceding Civil War, was such a thing ever seen in this body.”
For those of us who consider this a small victory — or even something of a defeat — it’s worth taking the time to consider what has been accomplished. I have a lot of faith in newly elected Senator Al Franken, and he sums the issue up well in his diary on Daily Kos:
Requiring insurance companies to spend 85% of premiums on actual health services — not administrative costs, TV ads, or gargantuan CEO bonuses — is a big victory. Senator Rockefeller and I worked hard to get that provision included because it holds insurance companies accountable and will put an end to exploding premiums and obscene profits – a huge win for progressives.
[. . .]
This bill will end annual and lifetime limits on the dollar value of your benefits. Eliminating preexisting condition exclusions for all new medical plans and funding high-risk pools to insure those with preexisting conditions who are currently without insurance means Minnesotans won’t be locked in their jobs or afraid to start their own businesses for fear of losing coverage. Requiring that 85 cents of every premium dollar go toward coverage will limit insurers’ profits and skyrocketing insurance premiums.
These are all real, strong reforms that this bill enacts with the urgency this crisis demands. Small businesses will immediately receive tax credits to make covering employees more affordable, and insurers will have to cover recommended preventive services at no cost to the patient. Again, these changes take effect immediately.
In coming years, health insurance exchanges will be created to give more Americans access to affordable coverage. For those who already have coverage, but live in fear that they’re just an illness or pink slip away from losing their health insurance, this bill provides the peace of mind that comes with access to secure, stable, affordable coverage.
These reforms are fiscally responsible and crucial to our long-term economic health. By bringing down costs and focusing on prevention and high-value health care, more Americans will get screenings to prevent diseases before they become costly and disabling. We’ll also make providers accountable for making people healthier, rewarding them for efficient care. In the end, this bill will save money and keep our country healthier while cutting the deficit by $132 billion in the first ten years and $650 billion in the second ten.
The plain simple truth is, because of this legislation crafted by Leader Reid and others in the Senate, 31 million more Americans will have affordable health insurance and the growth in health care costs for families will be dramatically diminished. For those reasons and the many I outlined here, today I am proud to announce my strong support for this historic step toward universal health care in America.
For as much as I hate the mandate without a public option, for as much as I expect I’ll hate whatever provisions were added regarding abortion, I will support this bill. It is easy to sit behind a computer screen and rant and rave about the bill’s inadequacies, but a lot of Americans need help now. They don’t have the time or the money to wait another 10+ years for our Congresspeople to have another go at this. I appreciate the efforts of many people who oppose the bill in its current form, including Howard Dean and quite a few outraged Lefty activists (for whom I have some respect in certain cases), but practicality must win out. Pragmatists may receive any number of disdainful glances from puritanical ideologues, but when reality strikes, people need to use their common sense (assuming they have any). We may not have gotten what we wanted with this bill, but if Congress manages to ram this thing through — warts and all — I believe we will get what is necessary: A solid foundation upon which to build a better system and upon which to begin better reforms.
If it seems like a hasty, half-assed rush job, that’s because it is. But sadly, that is what is necessary. It’s the only way to go at this point. This is very likely our only chance to get things even halfway right.
Because right now — in this moment — a certainty for just a few months more…
We have 60.
Update: vc2 is reporting over on dKos that Howard Dean is now urging Senators to support the bill, appearing live on MSNBC a little while ago. I don’t get MSNBC (poor Comcast customer that I am), and no video is posted anywhere that I can find — so it’s all hearsay at this point. Will provide a clip when/if it becomes available. Did anyone else see it? If it’s true, could it be due to White House criticism, or would Dean really care? How genuine are his sentiments?