Saturday, November 21, 2009

Step one: Dems win at least a beginning

The good news this morning is that healthcare reform is still alive in the Senate, as the Democratic leadership confirms it has the 60 votes needed to bring its bill to the floor for debate. Whether they will have the votes to close off this debate when it comes time to vote on the bill itself remains to be seen.

I guess I was relieved when it appeared a few days ago that Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu were the doubtful votes, since they represent states whose residents are generally lower-income and very much in need of affordable health insurance. I think it will be difficult for them, later, to vote against any reasonable bill that will help their constituents, so I am hopeful on that score. We still haven't heard from the anti-abortion people. Reid's bill does the usual end-run, forbidding direct federal funds for policies that pay for abortions, substituting some form of careful sequestering of funds which I don't believe will work to mollify opponents. This will be a sticking point and I think there may be a move toward strong restrictions like those in the House bill. I hope that progressive senators will understand how important it is to pass some version of this bill, since they'll likely not even have the votes for a weak bill after the midterm elections. There are many ways to help get low-income people financial assistance to obtain abortions, including private charities etc. We are not talking huge sums of money here, for that one (supplementary) coverage.

I must say that I'm disappointed in Olympia Snowe, since at this hour it seems that she is joining the obstructionist Republicans; it remains to be seen how she will vote on the bill itself. She is probably miffed that Reid substituted his "states can opt out" provision for her "trigger" plan. I can't see how she would think that her Maine constituents would do better with no healthcare bill at all. However, the night is young and we'll have to see what sort of amendments are attached to Reid's bill.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The Dems at least must realize how important it is for the party to get something passed. Maybe they can now start dumping on Big Pharma to retrieve some of their currently near-zero populist creds.

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