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Hullabaloo


Sunday, December 20, 2009

 
Bill Killers

by digby

Jon Walker at FDL makes a very good point about the current dialog on health care reform:

There is a very insidious myth right now that there is a large group of progressive leaders who want to “kill” health care reform in its entirety. While there might be some progressive leaders out there who have advocated for this position, I have yet to hear from them. What I have heard from people like Howard Dean, Markos Moulitsas, Keith Olbermann, Jane Hamsher, etc… is that they simply want to kill the current version of the Senate bill. None of them, to my knowledge, have advocated ending all efforts to pass a health care reform bill.
And those calling for "killing the bill" today are speaking to the members of the House, which is why the Senate is working overtime to cut the House out of the deal:
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said Sunday that it’s the Senate bill, or nothing at all, when it comes to health care reform.


"It is very clear that the final bill that passed in the United States Senate is going have to be very close to the bill that is being negotiated here," the North Dakota Democrat said on “Fox News Sunday.” "Otherwise you will not get 60 votes in the United States Senate.”
I would guess that that kind of arrogance has the White House a little bit spooked to the point where they are having the VP make soothing noises:

Writing in Sunday’s New York Times opinion page, Vice President Joe Biden said that “I share the frustration of other progressives that the Senate bill does not include a public option,” but suggested nothing is set in stone just yet.

“If the bill passes the Senate this week,” wrote Biden, “there will be more chances to make changes to it before it becomes law. But if the bill dies this week, there is no second chance to vote yes.”


The Senate running around saying "take it or leave it" in this situation probably isn't helpful to the holy cause of passage at all costs. The House does have some institutional pride and still has a vote. And for the first time I see a path to failure there.

You know that I think House liberals can probably be browbeaten into voting for almost any bill that contains a generous Medicaid expansion. But the abortion "compromise" could very well be the thing that kills it, regardless of whether Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray signed off on it. That issue isn't a matter of political positioning, ideological preference or a show of political power like the public option. It's a matter of fundamental liberal principle they are being asked to sacrifice. And they were all told after Stupak that the Senate would improve it.

Remember this?

"It is a much more pro-choice Senate than it has been in a long time," she added. "And it is much more pro-choice than the House."

Boxer's reading of the political landscape might seem like the hopeful spin of an abortion-rights defender. But it was seconded by a another lawmaker, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)

"It would have to be added," sad the Montana Democrat of an amendment that mirrored that offered Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) in the House. "I doubt it could pass."

Speaking days after House Democrats helped pass the Stupak provision -- which would greatly restrict private insurers from covering abortion -- Boxer and Baucus's proclamations are undoubtedly music to the ears of pro-choice activists. President Obama, likewise, stressed during an interview with ABC News Monday night that he would like to see the Stupak amendment changed before a final version of health care legislation is produced.
Here's what we got:

Abortion opt-out. State legislatures may pass laws prohibiting their newly created health insurance exchanges from offering abortion coverage. In states where abortion coverage is permitted, no federal funds may be used to pay for abortions; instead, they must be paid for by specially segregated funds derived from private health insurance premiums.

Does allowing all those "pro-life" state legislatures like South Dakota's to completely opt-out of any requirement to offer coverage for abortion sound like an improvement to you? Do we all relish the inevitable, bloody state-by-state abortion battles?

Stupak and the Bishops are screaming that it's a sell-out, of course, but that's because they actually know how to negotiate and people are afraid to criticize them because they are arguing out of "strong moral convictions" (unlike the baby killers.) Nobody in the White House is calling them insane, you'll notice. And that sets the table for yet another "compromise," this time in the conference between Stupak and Nelson. And what would that be except something even worse that what the overmatched and outgunned Boxer approved?

Stupak and Nelson have finally given the liberals in the House a serious, principled reason to walk away. The dynamics still argue that they won't do it for this or any other reason, and that they will simply allow women to get shafted. (There is apparently no limit to the amount of shit the left must be forced to eat to get this bill passed.)

But the stakes are now higher for liberals than they have been. Voting to restrict a woman's ability to exercize her right to abortion in half the country is as much of a gut check as voting for a bill that doesn't contain a public option. Some might actually calculate that it's a bridge too far. And those who were already leaning toward voting against the bill for all those other reasons will now feel much more secure that they are standing up for liberal principles when they do it.

There is such a thing as the straw that broke the camel's back, even for liberals who desperately want to pass health care reform. This might be it.


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