Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why It Rests on One Vote

Josh Marshall was in a sarcastic mood for a while today...under the header "Things That Are Cool," he says:
It's a great situation when every member of the caucus can kill the legislation on a whim. 
Sure.  And of course the key problem is that there are exactly 60 Senators who caucus with the Democrats, and it takes 60 to get cloture in the Senate.

But you know what?  There were only 58 Democrats back in the spring, and the stimulus basically worked out the same way.  If there were 62 Democrats right now, Holy Joe and the Benator would probably be long gone on this bill, and Bayh and Lincoln and Landrieu would be holding things up.  If the Dems only had 56, then they would have long since ditched the public option and secured Nelson, Lieberman, Snowe and Collins...and they would be trying to get two of  Lugar, Voinovich, and whoever was 61st.  Or maybe they would have gone for a smaller bill designed to withstand reconciliation, and they would have lost five of the fifty-six, and be negotiating with #49, 50, and 51. 

And here's the thing: yes, the Dems did accept some Republican amendments, and yes, we had the fun of the Gang of Six during the summer, and yes, there are lots of Republicans who are dedicated to opposing anything that Democrats propose.  But make no mistake about it: this bill is designed to get exactly 60 votes.  It's designed to be the most liberal bill that 60 Senators can vote for.  And Pelosi is doing the same in the House, which is why there are so many close votes on that side. 

So, while it is true that Republicans are following a rejectionist strategy, it's also true that Democrats are placing a priority on getting the most liberal bill possible, not the most possible votes.  And the downside of that is that it's going to mean that one or two Senators are always going to be in a position to derail things.

1 comment:

  1. " It's designed to be the most liberal bill that 60 Senators can vote for."

    That seems to be taking a very one dimensional view of the political spectrum. Taxing "cadillac plans", allowing drug-reimportation, and the individual mandate are all aspects of the debate can't be classified so easily. Is drug-reimportation an attack on free trade and competition or is it an attack on the intellectual property rights of drug companies?

    The mandate is now becoming the big issue for progressives due to the lack of the public option but before that it was a big aspect of what Republicans could use to scare their base about the plan.

    The individual mandate interests me in the debate since much of the opposition is due to the enforcement of it and its tie with subsidies never being defined, While much of the loudest talk on the Left is from people saying they don't want to be forced to give money to an industry they dont like, the aspects that bother most people are rarely addressed.

    If the fine is too little and it has no impact on insurance rates above other aspects of the bill, then all one gets from it is the unpopular requirement of proving insurance (when one files ones tax form?) or getting fined. For the overall impact on the popularity of the plan caused by it, it is hard to see how people could continue to defend it. Note that too little has to take into account that people face a fine when they use the ER now and many people dodge debt collectors for years since they can;t afford what they were charged. It also has to take into account the high uninsured motorists rate in the US (over 15% in 2006 I think and much higher in some states) even with an easier mechanism of enforcement and fines.

    If the fine is more, how do you prevent subsidies from ever getting out of sync with insurance prices so there are people who can't afford insurance even with the subsidy? Assuming rates can still depend on pre-existing conditions (even though being accepted can't) the process of determining subsidies correctly would seem to be rather extreme. I guess people could get insurance first and then get a refund based off the price but that only works if one gets the refund pretty quickly since not everyone has savings they can dig into. What about people who lose jobs that pay ok and don;t have savings to pay for Cobra (will it still exist and will there be subsidies even when people are fired?) or private coverage? Will the mandate be based off yearly income or take into account that some people may look like they can afford something from the total but have spent the money on rent or a mortgage when they thought they would have a steady income.

    And what about state and country programs for the uninsured? With at least undocumented immigrants not covered (and other groups like the homeless sometimes getting left out too for technical reasons like no address to apply form), where do those without insurance go for cheap care? I guess the problem is beyond the mandate in this case since providing private insurance to more people results in the same problem. It also applies a bit to those on insurance since private coverage usually has things like deductibles and copays that dont exist for low income people in many local programs. I guess the bill will put some of those people on Medicaid, but how quick will that happen and will the process be as difficult as now? For those without experience with public programs some of these questions may not make sense but when you know people who have to spend their savings dry or get disqualified from food stamps for having one to two months rent saved (from a job they lost), you think about such things.

    The lack of a linear nature of the left right spectrum is a bit visible in these concerns but only if you realize that much of what we now call the right is actually pretty concerned about the poor (but also really religiously conservative on social issues)


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