Reading reports of the Senate debate on health care reform leaves Crabby Old Lady wondering how we elected these clowns and why we pay them because there seem to be no more than half a dozen grownups among them. Here are just a few reasons they are, to Crabby, unfit for office.
Last week, Republicans codified their naysaying and obstructionism to any and all Democratic proposals since President Obama was elected. Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire (he who is pursuing an outside commission to take over control of Social Security and Medicare from Congress) sent his Republican colleagues a letter [pdf] outlining arcane procedural weapons they can use to derail a health care reform bill. An example from Gregg's list [Crabby's emphases added]:
"A Senator may make a point of order at any point he or she believes that a Senate procedure is being violated, with or without cause.
“After the presiding officer rules, any Senator who disagrees with such ruling may appeal the ruling of the chair - that appeal is fully debatable. Some points of order, such as those raised on Constitutional grounds, are not ruled on by the presiding officer and the question is put to the Senate, then the point of order itself is fully debatable.
“The Senate may dispose of a point of order or an appeal by tabling it; however, delay is created by the two roll call votes in connection with each tabling motion (motion to table and motion to reconsider that vote)."
This buffoon has no interest in doing the work he was elected for. Like an obstreperous child, he would be sent to bed without dinner if Crabby had her way.
Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat from Nebraska, submitted an amendment to the Senate health care reform bill that would prohibit all federal funding of abortion. (Would someone explain to Crabby Old Lady how it is possible to arbitrarily deny funding for a legal medical procedure? Why not heart surgery then? Or a broken leg?)
Crabby has been pondering what it says about Nelson and his worldview that his amendment would, effectively, deny abortion to low- an middle-income women while affecting richer women not at all; they can always afford an abortion with or without coverage for it.
The Senate narrowly defeated the amendment on Tuesday, but in regard to another inequity it contained, Senator Barbara Boxer, bless her feminist heart, had this to say - watch and smile:
As amusing as Boxer's commentary is, the whole abortion argument is a sideshow that Crabby believes Republicans are using to stall the real work of reform so they can have the childish satisfaction of not delivering a bill to the president before the new year as he wants.
Decisions forthcoming from the day-to-day Senate debate tend to be moving targets that can be negated almost as soon as they are announced, so Crabby doesn't bother storing this stuff in her long-term memory.
As of yesterday afternoon, when Crabby was writing this missive, the “broad agreement” on the public option Senate leader Harry Reid had announced on Tuesday, still held. Although he didn't use the word “trigger,” that's what the agreement is – there is no public option unless circumstances invoke the trigger. Here is a brief description of the senator's announcement from The New York Times:
”[A] federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress.
“If these private plans did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan, somewhat like the “public option” in the bill Mr. Reid unveiled three weeks ago.”
There is no option in that. It is a sellout, plain and simple, a giveaway to the private insurance industry that contributes millions of dollars to senators' campaign chests and ignores the many polls indicating that a majority of Americans want a public option. It is also, embarrassingly, a suck up to a single senator, the tedious Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who repeatedly threatens to not vote for any legislation with a public option.
Any of you who believes the criteria to trigger the government insurance plan would ever kick in is naïve; it is a promise that will never be kept and even a kid knows that. How stupid do these senators think we are?
Crabby Old Lady would publicly declare right now to vote against either of her senators who support this sham plan, but she is holding her fire because she sees a glimmer of hope.
Another section of the “broad agreement,” according to Harry Reid, would allow people age 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare. This is a terrific idea that the smart people concerned with reform have been urging from the beginning and although this version does not cover enough people, Crabby Old Lady sees it as a wedge toward Medicare for All. Once those mid-life people get a taste of Medicare (some of them have children to insure too), there will be a uprising of public demand for expanding Medicare to everyone.
And there are reports, vague so far, that Medicare for 55- to 64-year-olds would begin soon - in 2010.
There are no details about eligibility, premium levels, possible restrictions, etc. in this agreement (what Crabby has repeated here is pretty much all that is known so far) and god knows, it could easily be amended to death or slip away entirely. But failing a strong public option, it's a decent advance toward a real single payer system.
It would also take some small amount of pressure off Medicare funding. Because 55- to 64-year-olds are, on average, healthier than 65-and-older people, the risk pool would grow and costs would be reduced overall. Perhaps the accountants and actuaries at the Congressional Budget Office, who are now scoring this "broad agreement," can take the opportunity to impress upon the senators who oppose it (read: Republicans and Lieberman) the advantage of this.
Apart from that small bright light, Crabby is furious at the grandstanding, time wasting, posturing and delays from the Senate. She is pretty sure we could send a hundred 6th grade student government leaders – two from each state - to the Senate and they could do a better job.
Early Thursday Morning Update
According to a New York Times editorial this morning, the buy-in premium to Medicare for 55- to-64-year-olds would be $7,600 a year for single coverage which reduces Crabby's tentative enthusiasm by a number of degrees.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: What's Your Choice? A Second Installment About Cars