ObamaCare Gains Bipartisan Support from Career Gals of Maine Party
Thanks to fierce lobbying by Congressional Democrats, the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the health care bill just passed on Tuesday with bipartisan support from (1) liberal senators, represented by Olympia Snowe from Maine, and (2) ultraliberal senators, represented by all 13 Democrats on the committee.
On Wednesday morning, GOP senator Susan Collins also announced that she was open to health care reform along the lines of the committee’s proposal.
Impressive as this Republican sweep is, you may recall how Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package received even broader bipartisan support last spring, inasmuch as it attracted the votes of no fewer than three Republican senators, including Snowe, Collins, and Arlen Specter, which means that the failure of the stimulus bill to do what it was supposed to lies equally with Democrats and Republicans. Of course, Specter became a Democrat five minutes later, but right up until that moment he was firmly on the other side of the aisle.
Snowe, like Collins, Specter, John McCain, and other liberal Senators, has a reputation for magnanimously cooperating with the opposition party (the ultraliberals) in passing legislation that might otherwise be seen as abridging our liberty and taking over our lives. Legislators such as Snowe (L-ME) serve the important function of watering down such legislation to make its impact marginally less onerous on average Americans.
For example, Snowe opposes a “public option” in the health care reform bill—that is, unless private insurance companies don’t live up to arbitrary standards issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services that will ensure such companies don’t get away with swindles like “earning a profit,” at which point the public option will kick in faster than you can say “single payer.”
It’s a shame that no other Republican congressmen will put aside their partisan differences and work with liberal and ultraliberal senators. (Imagine how Obama would trumpet the expansive consensus of a tripartisan bill!) As is, even some liberal senators such as Independent Joe Lieberman have expressed resistance to embracing the proposed legislation on the grounds that it will massively increase health insurance premiums for Americans—i.e., that it’s self-defeating and crazy.
Some might quibble that the mere addition of one senator to a committee vote does not indicate the establishment of bipartisanship on health care. Yet Snowe’s vote must signify a major shepherding of Republicans into the fold, in that Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has made a host of concessions on her behalf, such as slashing by 50% the penalty for individuals who don’t buy insurance and increasing subsidies to people whom the bill mandates must purchase insurance (i.e., everyone). Never mind that the tiny state of Maine receives the same number of votes in the Senate as California—Snowe’s Finance Committee vote is evidently equal to the vote of 13 Democrat Senators!
The mainstream media’s critical, analytical take on this latest development on health care has been: a hearty rah! rah! for health care reformers for clearing such a grueling hurdle in such a graceful fashion.
While we’re talking about hurdles, it’s instructive to peruse an internal memo released by the Finance Committee in early June, which proposed a timetable for moving legislation through Congress. According to this starry-eyed agenda, the Committee would pass its bill by mid-July, merge it with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s wildly different bill and send it to the Senate floor for a vote by the end of July, and merge this with the House’s even more wildly different bill and have legislation ready for Obama to sign by October 1.
So the initial round of passing the bill out of committee, the slam-dunk part of the process, was supposed to take a month and took four. The next two rounds—merging the Senate bills, then merging the merged Senate bill with the merged House bill—will be far trickier than the initial round. These tasks are predicted to take two-and-a-half months—by the same people who were confident Obama would have signed a health care reform bill two weeks ago. Based on the Committee’s previous underestimates, by my calculations Congress should get around to voting on a final healthcare bill around September 2010—two months before a third of the Senate and all of the House are up for reelection by a public that opposes every plan they’ve seen come of Congress this year.
Now that the Democrats have secured wide-ranging approval among lawmakers for their bill, I recommend that they capitalize on this groundswell of support to ensure its swift passage. Can Democrats leverage the runaway momentum created by bipartisanship from the Snowe Party to accelerate this process?