Roy Hobbs In The Bottom Of The Ninth

by dday

On a sad day for civil liberties in this country, there is one shining bright spot - Ted Kennedy is back in the Senate.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, battling a brain tumor, walked through a wall of applause into the Senate on Wednesday and cast a stunningly unexpected vote on long-stalled Medicare legislation.

"Aye," the 76-year-old Kennedy said in a loud voice, and he made a thumbs-up gesture as he registered his vote.

Spectators in the galleries that overhang the chamber burst into cheers — a violation of decorum that drew no complaints.

The vote in question was on whether to overturn the Bush Administration's edict to reduce Medicare payments to doctors, which would almost certainly result in doctors and hospitals refusing to treat patients on Medicare. It's financed by reducing payments to Medicare Advantage, which has become something of a racket for insurance companies. Democrats tried to push this before the July 4 break, and came within one vote of getting cloture. Once Kennedy triumphantly showed up and bellowed, "Aye," cloture was assured, so a bunch of cowardly Republicans, who earlier voted proudly to kick Medicare patients out into the street, in a manner of speaking, flipped their votes, and cloture passed by 69-30.

Here's Pete Stark (D-CA), chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Health, on the vote:

"Today, with a veto-proof majority, the Senate joined with the overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the House to pass legislation that averts a 10 percent pay cut for physicians, makes modest beneficiary improvements to Medicare, and is financed by reining in the Medicare Advantage program. H.R. 6331 is the minimum that we should do to protect and maintain Medicare. America's senior citizens and doctors helped reluctant Republican Senators understand that as well.

"Senator Kennedy managed to make it back from treatment for cancer, but Senator McCain couldn't be bothered. Senator McCain, who wants to be our next President, has skipped this vote three times now. Clearly, he'd rather hide than face up to the insurance industry. You can do that when you're in the U.S. Senate, maybe voters should leave him there."

But forget the particulars. Seeing Ted Kennedy return to the Senate and hearing the roar from the gallery is enough to cheer me up today. His care and treatment was not as important as the care of some elderly man or woman of more modest means. He's a fighter for the common man no matter what. There are still a few of them left.

UPDATE: Think Progress has the video and a statement from Teddy:

I return to the Senate today to keep a promise to our senior citizens and that’s to protect Medicare.

Win, lose or draw, I wanted to be here. I wasn’t going to take the chance that my vote could make the difference.