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It’s 1:40 in the AM and the Senate is still in session…

As usual, I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, so I came downstairs and turned on CSPAN2 and, Lo and Behold, the Senate is still in action voting down Republican amendments to the Reconciliation bill.

If this is a political technique being pushed by the Repubs, I can’t see how it benefits them… aside from keeping a bunch of old men from getting their sleep. Perhaps that’s it… maybe they will make a mistake, vote in one tiny amendment and send the Rec bill back to the House for a longer stall.

Then again, Republicans need sleep, too… maybe they are screwing themselves.

Getting ready to watch President Obama sign Health Care Bill…

In about half an hour, Obama will take the initial Health Care bill as it was passed two nights ago by the House of Representatives. On TV right now I am watching Congressmen and women boarding buses to head over to the signing at the White House (in the East Room).

Once this is signed, the Reconciliation bill becomes debatable in the Senate (only allowed after the initial bill becomes law). Senator Reid has said that he has the 51 votes necessary to get this through, which he hopes to do by the weekend, but the Senate’s rules kick off with 20 hours of debate and Mitch McConnell and his team are getting ready to put up a broad array of holds and attacks to try and shoot it down, or at least send it back with changes to the House. There is NO evidence that there will be ANY inter-party communication here.

At the same time, the attorneys general of 12 states are getting ready to challenge the passed law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and that it covers areas which are the states’ responsibilities. General feeling in DC is that this doesn’t have a great chance of being decided in the AGs’ favor, but it will put up another stall.

It should be clear that challenges like these met the first passing of Social Security in the 30s and Civil Rights in the 60s… however, it has not been so nasty in recent decades. Where the Democrats never treated the Republicans like this when the more conservative party controlled Congress and the Presidency, the Republicans don’t have the same professional courtesy toward the Democrats. They think they will actually retake the government between the 2010 and 2012 elections and will be able to steer the country in a backward direction. So look for more (disgusting) charges of Socialism or Communism or Fascism made by the more conservative types to the folks in power. Perhaps it will make everyone realize what poor sports they are.

As MSNBC just said, the Republican strategy is “delay, delay, delay” and generate confusion among the voters. They are assuming Americans are, in general, just dumb enough to lead into a miasma that actually works against their new benefits.

And now we turn to the Senate…

A bill making changes to the health-care overhaul cleared the House of Representatives on Sunday night after 11:45 PM by a vote of 220-211.

House lawmakers approved the Reconciliation Bill after approving the original Senate health bill and sending it to President Barack Obama to sign.

Among the changes are an expansion of subsidies to buy insurance and a delay in a tax on high-value health plans.

Harry Reid says they will get it through this week… and, of course, the Republicans are already setting up to defeat it. At this point I wonder if they can.

Saturday Sports: Basketball? No… The House of Representatives.

OK… while many are watching the NCAA Basketball games, I’ll be watching the big sports action of the weekend: The Health Care bill in the House of Representatives.

CSPAN is showing BOTH the debates in the House and the Reconciliation Bill debate in the House Rules Committee (on CSPAN 2). The major players will all be out there, making the points or stalling to try and get the bill bogged down. Whatever happens today will determine what gets voted on tomorrow.

I’ll watch the Republicans push as many misstatements and lies as possible, challenge every rule and try to get this put off (the first Repub to speak at the Rules Committee meeting suggested how, if the Dems tried to be bipartisan, we could really get somewhere… in six years!)  I’ll watch the Dems restate every point to make it clear (and I understand at some time today all the House Dems are being called into a meeting at the White House today to get their energy up) and try to end run the Repubs whenever possible. How could Basketball even compare?

This will probably run well into the night tonite… time to get out the popcorn and keep abreast of the various blogs that will be commenting on every play.

Excitement and entertainment abound.

This from Greg Sargent’s THE PLUM LINE:

clipped from theplumline.whorunsgov.com

Bernie Sanders: I’m Prepared To Introduce Public Option Amendment

The public option just might get its straight up-or-down vote after all.

Senator Bernie Sanders, in a brief interview in the Capitol just now, confirmed to me that he’s willing to commit to introducing an amendment that would add the public option to the Senate bill’s reconciliation fix.

This is important, because as far fetched as this seems, if this amendment is introduced, a vote on it would be very hard for the Senate Dem leadership to block. The only thing that could stop it from happening, according to Senate expert Robert Dove, is for the parliamentarian to rule that it’s not germane to the Senate bill somehow — something that seems unlikely.

“I think somebody should do that, and I’d certainly be prepared to do that,” Sanders told me when I asked him if he’d be willing to commit to introducing a public option amendment. This is, in effect, a commitment to introduce the amendment if no one else does.

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There’s more if you click through to http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/health-care/bernie-sanders-im-prepared-to-introduce-public-option-amendment… and let’s hear it for Bernie Sanders!

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It is time to make the Lies the Republicans are telling vanish…

I was listening to someone on the TV this morning, Morning Joe, I guess (I was reading my e-mail and didn’t look up) who was saying that Americans (a group which you know from previous posts that I think I belong to) are against using Reconciliation to get Health Care Reform.

Well, there is some polling going on over at whipcongress.com that looks at a range of seven states across the political spectrum which comes up with results that I think are much more significant.

Here’s one:

If the Senate passes a health care reform bill that you consider to be beneficial to your family, would you object to the Senate’s use of “reconciliation” rules to pass that bill with a majority vote, or not?

I find North Dakota particularly interesting (although Senator Dorgan has now joined the Public Option letter) since it is used by the Republicans as an example of anti-Health Care legislation standing.  And look at Iowa… Tom Harkin hasn’t come on Board with the Public Option letter yet… maybe he should.

The Count is now 40…

… 40 senators have spoken out so far — including Harry Reid.

Ten more and we can add a Public Option to the Reconciliation Bill.

If you want the full list go to http://whipcongress.com.

I got a kick out of this… The Truth can be revealing.

This from the Summit as picked out by Ezra Klein in the WaPo::

Facts and figures

This morning, Lamar Alexander said that reconciliation has never been used for anything as big as health-care reform. Health-care reform has a 10-year cost of about $950 billion. The Bush tax cuts, which passed through reconciliation, had a 10-year cost of about $1.8 trillion. Lamar Alexander voted for them.

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The President Conducts His Health Care Summit

They are on Lunch Break as I write this, but watching and listening to this Summit of members of both parties, with participation by both houses of Congress and the Administration members who are concerned with Health Care, I am struck by the fact that Obama is in control.

Every time the Republicans try to jump on how many pages is in one proposal or another, Obama calls them back onto the subject at hand and refuses to play Party Attack. When Mitch McConnell complains that Democrats have used a greater percentage of time, Obama has to remind him that there was just one President who called the meeting and made an opening speech … and he is a Democrat… therefore it is going to be lopsided.

I’ll admit as well that Obama is paying attention when either side presents real ideas and gets down to discussing a real piece of legislation.

From Obama’s opening remarks:

And it may be that at the end of the day we come out of here and everybody says, well, you know, we have some honest disagreements; people are sincere in wanting to help, but they’ve got different ideas about how to do it, and we can’t bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans on this.

But I’d like to make sure that this discussion is actually a discussion and not just us trading talking points. I hope that this isn’t political theater where we’re just playing to the cameras and criticizing each other, but instead are actually trying to solve the problem.

That’s what the American people are looking for. As controversial as the efforts to reform health care have been thus far, when you ask people, should we move forward and try to reform the system, people still say yes, they still want to see change. And it strikes me that if we’ve got an open mind, if we’re listening to each other, if we’re not engaging in sort of the tit-for-tat and trying to score political points during the next several hours, that we might be able to make some progress. And if not, at least we will have better clarified for the American people what the debate is about.

So, with that, I just want to say again how much I appreciate everybody for participating.

The initial Republican point-of-view was presented by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who was picked for the job by McConnell and John Boehner. Here’s a quick clip to give you a sense of Lamar:

I have a suggestion and a request for how to make this a bipartisan and truly productive session. And I hope that those who are here will agree I’ve got a pretty good record of working across party lines and of supporting the President when I believe he’s right, even though other members of my party might not on that occasion. And my request is this, is before we go further today, that the Democratic congressional leaders and you, Mr. President, renounce this idea of going back to the Congress and jamming through on a bipartisan — I mean, on a partisan vote through a little-used process we call reconciliation, your version of the bill. You can say that this process has been used before, and that would be right, but it’s never been used for anything like this.

Anyway… I don’t think a new, “start from scratch” bill will come out of this… and we may get a Senate reconciliation bill approved by 51 or so Democrats.

We have this afternoon’s session to see if I’m wrong.

List of Senators for Reconciliation on Health Care Grows…

… and they are looking for a Public Option! My fingers are crossed… I hope this goes all the way to completion.

Anyway, add to our list: Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) (this brings us to 18).

More Senators Have Endorsed Health Care Reconciliation

Here’s the list that has added their names to the four who wrote the letter I reprinted yesterday (bottom of article):
Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Roland Burris (D-IL)
Al Franken (D-MN)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

With the four originals, the number has grown to 18 by my count. If your Democratic Senator is not listed here, give them a call. They should be here.

Also: 119 House members are in on this… check the list HERE.

It is time to get the word to Harry Reid that Reconciliation is the method to employ here and forget about the 60-vote Republican Naysayers.
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UPDATE;
Just received a fine e-mail from Chuck Schumer (D-NY) adding himself to the list. It’s only going to go up from here.

The 11 Democrats who will decide the fate of healthcare reform

clipped from www.salon.com
Armed with a newfound zeal for filibusters, the GOP won’t let the Senate pass any new healthcare bills. So the House will have to pass the bill the Senate has already finished, and then a separate measure, which would “fix” parts of the Senate bill that the House doesn’t like, would pass through the budget reconciliation process.
Thanks to the Senate’s complicated rules, that would leave Democrats needing to find 51 votes for healthcare reform, not the 60 that now look completely out of reach. But even with the 59 seats the Democrats (or like-minded independents) control, getting just those 51 votes could be tricky. The reconciliation bill will need to be carefully tailored, to make sure it doesn’t leave itself open to challenges from the GOP.
It’s worth pointing out that aides aren’t even sure it’ll come down to counting votes.
If Democrats can get two or three of these wavering votes, they should be able to pass the bill. If not, it might finally die.
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If you want to find out who the 11 players are among the Senate Democrats, GO HERE and read the whole article.

(and I know… Joe Lieberman is NOT REALLY A DEMOCRAT!)

And to give you a sense of the call for reconciliation from the Progressives, this letter went to Harry Reid yesterday:

Dear Leader Reid:

We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the full Senate a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules.

There are four fundamental reasons why we support this approach – its potential for billions of dollars in cost savings; the growing need to increase competition and lower costs for the consumer; the history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation; and the continued public support for a public option.

A Public Option Is an Important Tool for Restoring Fiscal Discipline.

As Democrats, we pledged that the Senate health care reform package would address skyrocketing health care costs and relieve overburdened American families and small businesses from annual double-digit health care cost increases. And that it would do so without adding a dime to the national debt.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined that the Senate health reform bill is actually better than deficit neutral. It would reduce the deficit by over $130 billion in the first ten years and up to $1 trillion in the first 20 years.

These cost savings are an important start. But a strong public option can be the centerpiece of an even better package of cost saving measures. CBO estimated that various public option proposals in the House save at least $25 billion. Even $1 billion in savings would qualify it for consideration under reconciliation.

Put simply, including a strong public option is one of the best, most fiscally responsible ways to reform our health insurance system.

A Public Option Would Provide Americans with a Low-Cost Alternative and Improve Market Competitiveness.

A strong public option would create better competition in our health insurance markets. Many Americans have no or little real choice of health insurance provider. Far too often, it’s “take it or leave it” for families and small businesses. This lack of competition drives up costs and leaves private health insurance companies with little incentive to provide quality customer service.

A recent Health Care for America Now report on private insurance companies found that the largest five for-profit health insurance providers made $12 billion in profits last year, yet they actually dropped 2.7 million people from coverage. Private insurance – by gouging the public even during a severe economic recession – has shown it cannot function in the public’s interest without a public alternative. Americans have nowhere to turn. That is not healthy market competition, and it is not good for the public.

If families or individuals like their current coverage through a private insurance company, then they can keep that coverage. And in some markets where consumers have many alternatives, a public option may be less necessary. But many local markets have broken down, with only one or two insurance providers available to consumers. Each and every health insurance market should have real choices for consumers.

There is a history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation.

There is substantial Senate precedent for using reconciliation to enact important health care policies. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare Advantage, and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), which actually contains the term ‘reconciliation’ in its title, were all enacted under reconciliation.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Norman Ornstein and Brookings’ Thomas Mann and Molly Reynolds jointly wrote, “Are Democrats making an egregious power grab by sidestepping the filibuster? Hardly.” They continued that the precedent for using reconciliation to enact major policy changes is “much more extensive . . . than Senate Republicans are willing to admit these days.”

There is strong public support for a public option, across party lines.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want a public option. The latest New York Times poll on this issue, in December, shows that despite the attacks of recent months Americans support the public option 59% to 29%. Support includes 80% of Democrats, 59% of Independents, and even 33% of Republicans.

Much of the public identifies a public option as the key component of health care reform — and as the best thing we can do to stand up for regular people against big insurance companies. In fact, overall support for health care reform declined steadily as the public option was removed from reform legislation.

Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public’s perception of it. The Senate has an obligation to reform our unworkable health insurance market — both to reduce costs and to give consumers more choices. A strong public option is the best way to deliver on both of these goals, and we urge its consideration under reconciliation rules.

Respectfully,

Michael Bennet (D-CO), U.S. Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Senator
Jeff Merkley (D-OR), U.S. Senator
Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Senator

Obama Won’t Drop Potential Use Of Reconciliation On Health Care

clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com
President Obama wants to keep the option of using reconciliation to pass health care reform despite calls from Republican lawmakers that he agree to drop the parliamentary maneuver as a “good faith” gesture” before their bipartisan health care summit.
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday that Republicans coming to the West Wing for the much-anticipated February 25 meeting would be better off arriving “without preconditions.” Asked whether Obama would commit to not using reconciliation — which would allow aspects of health care legislation to be considered in the Senate by an up-or-down vote — Gibbs replied:

The president is not going to eliminate things based on preconditions. And if that’s one of their preconditions, the president doesn’t agree to limiting the way we are going to discuss this.

The day before, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) penned a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel expressing their reluctance to participate in the health care summit and asking that ground rules be set before talks begin. Among those rules: agreeing to not use reconciliation to make amendments to the Senate health care bill.

Obama

Obama replied: “I am going to be starting from scratch in the sense that I will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals. What I will not do, what I don’t think makes sense… will be another year of partisan wrangling around these issues.”

Thanks to HuffPo for these clips.
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