Monday, December 14, 2009

The death of health care reform yet again?

Gregg Levine in this column (Kill Bill? Latest Flips by Lieberman, Nelson Predictable; Require Hard-Line Response Firedoglake 12/14/09) doesn't mention to obvious option of abolishing the filibuster rule, though he does explain why it's almost unthinkable at this point that any meaningful health care reform bill will win 60 votes in the Senate. The Democrats have no excuse on this one. It takes a majority vote to abolish the filibuster rule. And with the "Gang of 14" agreement in 2005, the Republicans essentially declared that they will only recognize the filibuster rule as sacrosanct when it immediately benefits them.

But Levine does give a good description of the kind of scenario that could well lead the Progressive Caucus in the House to vote down the compromise:

It is quite possible that the Senate will produce a bill that contains no public option—or, likely, a mythical and weak PO resting behind a trigger well-nigh impossible to pull—no ban on annual or lifetime caps, no repeal of the insurance anti-trust exemption, no pharmaceutical reimportation, and no real Medicare buy-in (and let me add no community rating and a meaningless loss ratio), all accompanied by an easy opt-out, and a time-lag on any benefits that could be as much as four years. It is also likely the bill will still include an individual mandate, a massive extension on patent protection for biologics, permission to sell national plans, and all the garbage that has been tossed in along the way (like money for abstinence-only education and start-up/conversion funds for state-based cooperatives). And (and I admit I am saying this without any evidence but a gut feeling), I fully expect that, when the smoke clears, we will discover loopholes in the bans on the exclusion of pre-existing conditions and rescission. With all of that, what do we have?

Well, we do have conference, and, as we have said all along, our leverage is with the House, with the Progressive Caucus, and with individual representatives; so, of course, we hold our allies to their commitments to a robust public, and hope that they demand whatever comes out of conference include one (and include one without triggers). But what if what comes out of that meeting between Pelosi and Reid (with a soupcon Emanuel and Obama thrown in) is something much closer to the Senate beast I outlined above? Then what?
The bottom line is this. Joe Lieberman and the Republicans can gut health care reform because they're willing to kill the whole thing if they don't get what they want. Unless the Progressive Caucus is willing and able to do that, too, the White House and the Congressional leadership will just assume that they will always come along in the end on votes like health care reform, even for a genuinely bad bill.

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