The Bad News? The Senate Finance Bill is Horrendous. The Good News?

by: Mike Lux

Wed Sep 16, 2009 at 10:30


It's not even close to the final bill.

I have written several times of the media's fixation with the bill that comes out of the Senate Finance Committee on health care. It's finally starting to move now, creaking its way up the track like a half-dead carcass. Traditional media will act like whatever is in the Senate Finance bill will be the bill, that the deal is done. Not even close, folks.

Here's why the Senate Finance markup that will come out next week is nowhere close to what will be in the final legislation:

1. Finance chair Max Baucus has already messed up by not consulting with a half-dozen of the more progressive members of the committee. I am hearing numerous reports, some of which have surfaced publicly, that some of them are rebelling at the awful piece of mangled legislation being thrust in front of them. Given that Snowe is the only Republican that there is even a ghost of a chance of voting for the bill, Baucus has to get all or at least most of the Democrats on board, and I believe if the committee progressives work together, they can force some changes for the better.

2. The bill that makes it out of Finance will be so convoluted, contradictory, distorted, held-together-with-duct-tape because of all the compromises Baucus is making that Democrats will have to remake it in later stages even if they don't want to- and a great many of them want to.

3. Harry Reid still needs to marry the Finance bill and the HELP committee bill. Tom Harkin, who took over the chairmanship of the HELP Committee after Ted Kennedy passed away, is from what I hear bound and determined to make a major push to have the language of the HELP bill be a major part of the package that goes to the floor, including on the big issues like the public option and affordability for the middle class. He is being supported not only by the Democratic members of his committee but by outside progressive forces.

4. The floor fight will be wild and wooly, but I suspect that progressive forces may have an advantage in adding positive amendments to the mix in the light of day in a floor fight. The Republicans will offer all kinds of goofy amendments designed to mess up the bill, but they have two problems: they only have 40 votes, and the public polling on the GOP's actual health care proposals are very bad. Given that, Republican efforts to worsen the bill have little chance to succeed. Progressives, on the other hand, want to improve the bill by doing things that are actually popular: the public option (consistently polls in the 60s and 70s); taxing the wealthy instead of middle class workers with good insurance plans; making health insurance more affordable to the middle class. All of these are going to be pretty hard to vote against on the Senate floor.

5. Finally, to return to a theme I have been rather repetitive about in recent months, it is abundantly clear that House progressives, if they stay strong and stay together, have the negotiating power to block a bad bill. If they don't wilt, if they don't let themselves get picked off one by one, they can negotiate for a good health care bill, one that has a public option, one that is affordable for the middle class, one that forces insurers and providers to do real cost containment.

The traditional media will fall all over themselves to pronounce whatever Senate Finance does to be chiseled in stone. But progressives, if they work together and negotiate tough, can write a bill that will work, a bill on comprehensive health reform that we can all look back on as one of the greatest accomplishments of the era.

Mike Lux :: The Bad News? The Senate Finance Bill is Horrendous. The Good News?

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so in other words (4.00 / 2)
there is still much sausage making to come, and no one really can say with any certainty what a final version of the bill will look like?

someone told me today that she heard that it is unlikely any bill will be voted upon by the end of the year. just gossip, i know, but i have to say- how much more damn time do they need? it's so frustrating. it seems to me that between the rumor-mongering SCLM, the back room dealing, the contradictory gobblydegook coming from various Dems and dem leadership, the whole point here is to seem like they're doing something, while actually accomplishing nothing. House Progressives will get the "victory" of killing a really bad bill, and then we'll be back to square one, while Villagers pronounce "we tried, but now the political will is gone. oh well, sick America."

feh. it's just pissing me off so much. i know it's "impossible," but i wish we could just have a vote and once and for all see who wants to bring health care to americans, and who is firmly in the pocket of the insurance industry.  


I don't think the issue of our broken heath care system will evaporate (0.00 / 0)
just because the progressives vote against a poor bill that would not substantively reform the system.

That's one major difference between today and 1994: the problems are too significant to be swept back under the rug.

I realize that we are still a long way from this scenario being played out.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
The bill will contain more than what is demanded in the pledge block's vow. (0.00 / 0)
I hope people can call and push for the single payer in a state provision for example, make sure that its funded by a real tax on the wealthy, make sure it has interim coverage between now and 2013 when its fully in place, interim coverage for people who need help right now.

There will be no need to vote it down, just as Mike points out, because it will exceed the demands placed in the vow to kill the bill.

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
That's a nice, bright, optimistic outlook (4.00 / 1)
but, I've seen little to no serious negotiating skills on the part of any Democrat so far. So I am not nearly as optimistic as you appear.



"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Look here for confirmation (4.00 / 2)
Axelrod talks with House Dems on public option (The Big Hurt)

In a closed-door session with House Democrats on Tuesday, White House senior adviser David Axelrod reiterated President Barack Obama's support for a public option and didn't mention a trigger or insurance cooperatives, lawmakers present said afterward.

Axelrod fielded more specific questions about the president's support for government-sponsored health coverage from progressives in the caucus, and California Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said, "It wasn't the same-old, same-old."

To which I commented thusly:

"It wasn't the same-old, same-old."
This is the best news, the best sentence I have read about the future of congress, about our organizing, about our potential for real progressive change. In  ..  . too many years to count. I cant remember.

How far back do we have to go, when our real ability to alter government policy, with significant life changing policies, has been so real, so stated.

We did this. We must do more. We have a responsibility to do more, but this organizing by a bunch of DFH, has gotten us here, and will take us forward.

"It wasn't the same-old, same-old."

Well done reader, well done front pagers, well done blogoramistan, well done pledge block and well done America.



--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
Parsing statements does not make me feel better (4.00 / 1)
but keep trying. I appreciate your efforts and optimism, even if I remain skeptical.


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
I dont understand what you mean. (4.00 / 1)
A member of the pledge block, talking to the highest official in the white house, says that it no longer feels like convincing needs to be done, that the PO is more than safe at the WH. Why is this merely parsing?

We cannot act if we do not see clearly how strong are. I want to repeat that. Saying, wrongly, that we have no influence, stops the very necessary final push and support we need to make this happen. It is happening, we got iot here, we are still needed.

The stupid articles of people who think they "are trying to push Obama left" by taking away peoples confidence that our actions have meaning, that we are changing the bill; are working exactly the same way that Republican's 'belittling of progressives' works. The same way that Versailles's calling us all DFH, calling us street thugs, making fun our issues works.

They are trying to get you out of the game. If you read criticism of the not good enough by far democratic trifecta that makes you think its not worth fighting, then that writer has made a huge error((!!)) or they have achieved their purpose. You not working hard for change.

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
Mostly because of this kind of thing: (0.00 / 0)
Copied from the QH list just to the right: (no active links included)

OFA not backing away. (HousesofProgress) 2 comment(s)

The OFA backing away from the public option (Z) 1 comment(s)

Mixed message much?

Definitions of the words "is" and "will" only become critical to explain when the situation is unclear.


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Its a mixed message, because (Z) found a link that is an almost yellow journalistic way (0.00 / 0)
to misrepresent a mistaken view of Obama's Organizing for America's plan page.

Why people are think their undiorected, random attacks, which merely cause confusion, is a way of pushing the bill to the left is beyond me.

I think they should stop. look clarity and help push the bill to be more progressive, help more Americans.

Like this addition to the Obama Plan


#  Immediately offers new, low-cost coverage through a national "high risk" pool to protect people with preexisting conditions from financial ruin until the new Exchange is created.
Which covers people from NOW till 2013, when every thing is set up. A big complaint of many a few days and weeks ago.

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
Parsing statements (0.00 / 0)
is what people use when they're trying to prove the President is NOT for the public option.

so parsing statements are only applicable when they feed your skepticism?


[ Parent ]
feel better (0.00 / 0)
I don't think it's as bad as that, I think we will get a vote, and sausage making is the democratic process. On a big complicated issue like this, it's bound to be messy. And I think one way or another, for better or worse, this will all be over by the end of the year.

[ Parent ]
Well we'd need a bill first (0.00 / 0)
and for a bill to come to the floor, it has to be looked at by various committees, amended, paid off, worked through the process, amended again, then whipped, then voted.

These things take time.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 took over a year. Medicare took six months. We're in month #2 right now.


[ Parent ]
What on earth--or anywhere else, for that matter-- (4.00 / 2)
makes you think it's gonna get BETTER?


History, legislative knowledge and a little determination. (0.00 / 0)
But hey welcome back konopelli. Don't things get better where you are?

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
Better than what? (0.00 / 0)
Obama continues to live down to my expectations, if that's what you mean.

The Obama health 'plan' is to concede anything and everything that the Health Insurance Parasites demand, and to dump the consequences on the heads of the middull class, which is mostly too fucking stupid to notice...

Did he REALLY compare Health Insurance to auto insurance? Is he really that stupid? or does he REALLY THINK WE'RE THAT STUPID?

Either way...

His "plan" to re-regulate the financial markets is equally vague, and toothless.  Did he really SAY  the banksters could be trusted?  


[ Parent ]
grrr! grrr! (4.00 / 1)
rrrroar!

lol
The bell curve is still representative of reality, to answer your question yes. And I cannot for the life of me rember any discussion of what should be done about bank regulation, on any site except the one I have linked to in my signature since(since the election), and not one single member of the legislature make it her issue. It needs discussion. And discussion is not redfaced screaming "hang them all" or arrest them all, or nationalize all banks.

Real policies have not been discussed at all. AT ALL. certainly not by screamers, but not by anyone else either.

Conceding everything is a little 'out there' althouigh the plan is not as simple as Medicare for all(nor as good as that would be), however: as said otherplaces:

There will be caps on payments by patients that will prevent the bankrupting of Americans for medical costs, which runs about 2/3's of all bankruptcies, a very important reform.


This alone is real reform. Not enough, we con do better and are doing better, but real reform.

Americans will no longer be told, you are already sick we will not give you medical coverage, that will be illegal. No one in the middle of being treated will be sent home because the Insurance company 'discovers' you had intestinal problems in college. That will be illegal. Thats real reform. We organized for it. We got it. It will be passed. That is reform. Real reform. Not enough, but real. But there is more.

Americans will have the same system that congress has for buying Health Insurance. It will end the sellers market, the kind of market that drives up house prices, the kind of market where you have no choice.  A buyers market is being set up.  Good, but not enough.

To make that market accountable, a public option will be offered. Without a need for profit, without a need for hundred million dollar CEO salaries it will cost less and cover more. Good reform. Not enough, but good.

This all happened because we worked together and made it happen. By delivering votes, and by threatening to take them away. All together the health insurance reforms will change the lives of millions of Americans, and take the fear of health coverage away from American lives. The loss of that fear alone is amazing. Something we should be very proud of.

Now, we have to start working to end the war in Afghanistan. And doing that, we will make more better democrats. And more better democrats will make our other reforms more possible.



--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
OK I have changed my mind, as with Single Payer, we need to demand much more to get the merely acceptable. (4.00 / 2)
I do now demand, nationalize or split up all the large banks. I wantr the reinstatement of what was until recently base American Law.

A bank may not have a branch more than a few miles from their head office.

And services that have to be done by larger banks, must be done by a Banking Utility.

There, I am waiting for a compromise.

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
Try yelling at the President inappropriately (4.00 / 1)
it worked for Rep. Wilson.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
That made me want to puke. (4.00 / 1)
and by it I mean Senator (Former Senator?) Baucus' "fkuc you" to the President, to the democratic party, to anyone who has ever worked against racism his fuck you to anyone who has ever fought for immigrants and against discrimination. I hope Baucus is primaried and looses, and if he wins the primary, I hope he is defeated in the general election.

I would not lift a finger to help elect Baucus if he was running against Karl Rove. Baucus is slime.

But he has destroyed any chance he has of influencing any part of this Bill.

As Mike says, this piece of crap he is excreting from his committee will be flushed away where it belongs.  

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
We'll see (0.00 / 0)
re health care. I don't remember anything in the speech re trusting the bankers. What he proposed does not go nearly far enough, and the part about giving the Fed more powerful without democratizing them sucks, but he didn't say anything re trusting bankers.

[ Parent ]
Everything I just wrote. (0.00 / 0)
Somebody's got to be an optimist.

[ Parent ]
Thanks so much for such an article. (4.00 / 1)
I feel confident that this is, certainly can be if we continue to work hard, the real deal. We can do this, it will happen, just as you have laid out. Work hard by supporting the pledge block, now more than ever. look at paragraph 4's most important points:
Progressives, on the other hand, want to improve the bill by doing things that are actually popular: the public option (consistently polls in the 60s and 70s); taxing the wealthy instead of middle class workers with good insurance plans; making health insurance more affordable to the middle class. All of these are going to be pretty hard to vote against on the Senate floor.

This is not just possible, not just what we have been fighting for, but now, right on target for actually being done. It is being done, because we will compromise no more. We have the support of the American people, and it is a test of our character to pass it. Yes we are this good as a people. We will not fail to pass this bill, with these policies.

Thanks Mike, as always, an informative and action motivating post.

Speaking of action motivating. We would not be here without the guts and determination of the pledge block. lets redouble our help to them specifically lets donate again, lets cross post again, lets get their back. To everyone who wants this to go better, help the pledge block, wants the confusion to end, help the pledge block, wnats a bill as strong as it possibly can be, help the pledge bock. Call if you can't donate. Email the Reps, you can find each one, and even a map for each one on the link here to ActBlue.
[[[<-----Cross post this pledge link!]]]
The other thing we can do is add more Representatives to the pledge block! Use desmoinesdem's wonderful post to contact and help friends contact more Populist Caucus members to join with all the Progressive Caucus who have signed on.
Link to desmoinesdem's ACTION: Urge House Populists to join Progressive Block

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


So fucking stupid (4.00 / 5)
Every day I am continually amazed at the stupidity of politics. I don't know how it's even possible.

Max Baucus spends a month giving the farm to Republicans, then comes out with a bill without even bothering to check to see if anybody on the committee is going to vote for it. He got a grand total of zero GOP votes for his efforts, and the liberals on the committee are (thankfully) throwing a shit fit. Great job there, dillweed.

This morning, I turn on the tube to see Maria Bartowhatever straight-up lying about the boner she pulled when "debating" Anthony Wiener. Then I see Evan Bayh's smarmy fucking mug polluting my living room, going on about how "now that the left and right are done shouting we can put politics aside and focus on doing what's right blah blah". You stupid fucker, your whole career is predicated on putting politics before policy, always. Remember your stupid fucking centrist "gang" that bragged about having no policy issues to talk about? "The left" are the only people talking about policy. And you think the right is done shouting, you stupid motherfucker?

Fucking A, man. Every goddamn day there's some new stupid shit. If we're going to grade the MSM on a curve, "Kanye West is a jackass" would actually score a B+ at this point. It's really over for us, as a country. Bread and circuses, man, fucking bread and circuses.

I'm going to crawl into a cave and practice my poop-flinging skills, cause in a few months, that'll all that'll be left. By December the average news program will be replaced by two rednecks with "3" tattoos and meth-mouth trying to mount each other for dominance.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!


Truly one of the funniest damn things I have read in weeks. (4.00 / 4)
the average news program will be replaced by two rednecks with "3" tattoos and meth-mouth trying to mount each other for dominance.

omFg

I cannot catch my breath.

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
Democrats and political opportunism (4.00 / 3)
I am entirely convinced that the entire push for bipartisan support has made it LESS likely that the bill or any other bill will receive any Republican support. If the Democrats and Obama did not appear weak, indecisive and opportunistic, but instead concentrated on what was needed and defended THEIR ideas on what constitutes good health care reform, the public at large would have been more enthusiastic and I think the political dynamic would have pressured Republicans and others to support serious change. Instead we get an object lesson in how not to govern and how to squander political support and advantage. Obama may be a good politician; he does not have a clue on how to lead.


Baucus math was simple (4.00 / 1)
23 members of Finance: 13 Dems and 10 Repubs.
12 votes needed to get bill out of Committee on a 'bi-partisan' basis
Meaning 4 R's plus 8 Dems OR 3 R's and 9 Dems because there were six certain 'No' R's from the gitgo..

4 R's plus 8 D's means Baucus could lose 5 D's and still get a bill through. Which is why he originally invited Hatch, Grassly, Snowe, and Enzi to join him, Conrad and Bingaman in the original Gang of Seven.

On July 23rd Hatch publically dropped out leaving a Gang of Six.
Now the math gets tougher, Baucus needs all three remaining R's to offset a potential loss of any of four Dems.
Those four Dems? In order Rockefeller, Kerry, Wyden, Schumer.
Any loss of an R from the Gang of Six means picking up a vote from the Silenced Four.
Max loses Enzi? He needs Schumer to get to 12.
Max loses Grassly? He needs Schumer and Wyden.
Max loses Snowe? He needs both plus Kerry.

Max is keeping up a brave face but he knows he lost his bet that he could thread the needle to 12 votes. Rockefeller who is after all Chair of the Health Sub-Committee was kicked to the curb in being excluded from the Gang. Now he can block Baucus by picking up one D and so preventing 12 votes on anything. Or of Snowe flips back by picking up two. Think he is not goinr to fight back?

Baucus made a power play gambling that he could lose four or five D votes and still win. Now his margin is down to one. Bye bye
MaxCare, the path to 12 Finance votes is closed.


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