Muftic – Perpetual Debate
Grand County, CO Colorado
Will Rogers, a 1930s humorist, would have found Congress of his era to be much like this term’s Congress. Per Rogers: “We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress.”
I am sure there are many like me who have grown weary of the debate, the posturing, the manipulation of process and data, stonewalling, and vote-trading. The filibuster was once used rarely, but in the past decade, the filibuster rules in the Senate have been abused to require a 60-vote super majority to pass nearly every piece of legislation, including health insurance reform. The legislative process has not only gotten slower, it has come to a near halt, leaving “reconciliation” with a 50-plus-1 vote as the only way out for contentious legislation.
Weary or not, we face another nine months of health reform debate. Republicans say they will campaign in November midterms against reform and to repeal whatever the Democrats pass. To sum up the debate to date:
Democrats would give 31 million individuals who are not already insured access to the same kind of private insurance group plan Congress has, and subsidize about one-third of those who still could not afford the lower rates such a large group could negotiate. Democrats would ban insurance company policies that deny insurance to those with pre-existing conditions and the sick. This is a plan based upon participation of private insurers. The public option may rise from the dead if 51 senators vote for it in the reconciliation process. Around 37 senators, including both from Colorado, have agreed to support it so far. A majority of the public supports it. (www.pollingreport.com).
The Republicans have made some proposals that would give a whopping 3 million more access to health insurance. Too bad for the 28 million others or those with pre-existing conditions their plan will not cover. The Republicans have proposed cost savings measures such as malpractice reform, cross-state insurance purchases, and suggestions to reduce fraud and abuse.
Republicans are selling their arguments to “start over” by fueling fear with use of outright fibs and half truths.
• Republicans note the Democrats’ bill would cost $2.5 trillion but they conveniently ignore the savings side of the equation. Both parties recognize that we are heading for a fiscal train wreck if we do not reduce health care costs. The only official non-partisan, independent body analyzing the figures, the Congressional Budget Office, says the Democrats’ bills passed by both the House and the Senate in December will save the treasury $130 billion over 10 years. The CBO scored the Republican plan at $62 billion in savings. President Obama in February added versions of the Republican proposals to his own, increasing the savings, though CBO has not scored this merged version yet.
• Republicans continue to scare seniors, claiming $500 million would be cut from Medicare, but they slyly neglect to mention that Democrats would not cut benefits, just administrative costs. Sen. Bennet (D-Colo.) sponsored a bill that got through the Senate on a 100-0 vote that would prohibit cutting of Medicare benefits. It is on the way to the House. Clever. Passage should end that Republican talking point.
• Republicans contend the Democrats’ plan would cause health insurance premiums to rise. That one is a truth-fudging fib. Republicans are taking quotes from CBO projections that are out of context. The CBO estimates that the cost of premiums if you are in a large group plan will decline 0.o percent to 3 percent; small groups could range between a 1 percent increase to a 2 percent decrease.
What about reforming the filibuster process? It is emotionally satisfying to many to say “down with the filibuster,” as Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff has proposed, calling it “an anachronism that no longer serves a useful purpose.”
Careful what you wish. If the Republicans could get control of Senate sometime in the future, the Democrats would need to call on the filibuster to protect health care reform or any other legislation from Republican repeal attempts, though a presidential veto is a backstop, too.
Sen. Michael Bennet introduced legislation in the Senate this month that would force both parties to actually talk to each other and would provide a way to end obstructionist partisan misuse of the filibuster. If either party failed to get some votes from across the aisle to close the filibuster, the threshold would fall to 45 votes. Truth is: Neither Bennet’s nor Romanoff’s proposals have a chance, since Senate leadership seems unwilling to rock that boat.
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