Francis Vierboom's Blog

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Mysterious ways

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My conspiracy theory about healthcare reform in the US is slowly coming true… kind of. Obama and the Democrats are trying to pass some progressive reforms of the USA’s ridiculously expensive and not-that-good healthcare system. The process has been jammed up by Republicans who have decided that they can repeat their huge success in the 1994 elections, two years into Clinton’s presidency, by running a year-long fear campaign of a government takeover of healthcare. And Democrats have had to deal with the malevolent forces in their own caucus. In December it looked like they would just pass a slightly emasculated (no government-run public insurance option) but nevertheless significant reform bill.

I tried to make a bold prediction that they would then pivot around and pass a more progressive public option with a ‘reconciliation’ vote, which only requires a simple majority. Which, frankly, was always a pure fantasy. There is no way that, having actually passed something, they would have dived back in to the political ‘hurt locker’ of debating healthcare reform.

But the legislative gods work in mysterious ways. The original plan got derailed by the defeat in the Massachusetts senate election, leaving the Democrats with ‘only’ 59 senators in the 100 seat Senate. The House of Representatives is demanding changes to the Senate bill. (And so is the Senate, after some buyer’s remorse on special state deals that were cut.) But without 60 senators, the Democrats can’t afford to put the bill before the Senate again, because it will get filibustered by Republicans.

So the House has to pass the Senate bill as-is, and then use a reconciliation vote to modify the legislation. Weird. But since reconciliation only required 50 votes in the senate, the theoretical limits of the healthcare bill’s ‘progressivism’ lie at the 216th most liberal member of the House, rather than the 60th most liberal Senator. Which is at least slightly more liberal.

And it looks like it’s going to happenPossibly even with a public option.

Written by Francis

March 12, 2010 at 10:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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