The Choakely loss is the best thing that could have happened to this horrific healthcare reform effort. I say that for no other reason than that it will push us across the finish line. We’ve been subjected to this shit for the last 9 months, drowning out all the other (major, growing, worsening) problems like unemployment, foreclosures, wars, you name it. It’s time to put it to bed and move on. Sad as it is, I find the new political calculus to be extremely clarifying. Here are the facts as I see them:
- The Senate bill is nothing short of a major disappointment for all right-thinking progressives everywhere.
- Given GOP obstructionism, there is absolutely no way in hell another comprehensive bill gets to the Senate floor for a vote. That ship has now sailed. Permanently and forever.
- Congressmen are worthless assholes.
Granted, all three of these points are major negatives. However, thanks to number 2, the issue is now binary: is the Senate bill better or worse than the status quo? We no longer have the luxury of debating the relative merits of various proposals. There is only one choice left. Does the House pass the Senate bill or not?
Consider that the Democrats will never again have the kind of majorities they have right now. No matter what happens, it’s as good as gone in ten short months. They took half-assed measures to combat a horrible economic climate, and for that they will be rightfully punished. More accurately, we’ll all be punished, with Republicans. But before that happens, they have to leave the people with something meaningful. Otherwise they serve no purpose – why even have two political parties? Can they really be that pathetic as to pass nothing at all?
Alarmed by the nonstop posts from Josh Marshall about House Democrats in disarray, I called my Rep yesterday to find out where he stood. The intern had the gall to tell me that Sarbanes is a strong supporter of the public option and is waiting to see what happens to the bill after it comes out of conference. Look, pal, I hate to spoil this for you, but I hope the conference bill is made out of two-ply so the Republicans won’t chafe their asses when they use it to wipe. Even though they already passed one bill, the Senate still requires another cloture vote for the merged bill, and the Republicans have made it eminently clear that it’s not going to happen. Therefore, who gives a shit what happens to it in conference? I shudder to think how much worse the bill would have to become in order to get a Republican vote. I’m guessing drastically reduced subsidies for the poor, because what else is there left to take?
So back to the question at hand: does the Senate bill improve the current state of healthcare for Americans or make it worse? And there’s really no question that for tens of millions of unlucky bastards, it’s an improvement. So if you’re a Democrat in the House, you have to take the teabags out of your eyes and pass this fucking bill. Right now they’re acting like Ron Burgundy when first presented with a plate of cat poop: denial. I’m here to say, you put that cat poo in your mouth! The insurance company hacks managed to drag this thing out long enough and by god, they did it. They killed the public option! It’s fucking dead. Recriminations all around. But guess what. The so-called “public option” that was on the table was never anything more than a progressive fig leaf, something to distract from the absence of true single payer. The proposals on the table were all weak as hell and were always going to require additional legislation to improve and expand. So it is with this bill. And the Senate bill puts us in a better future position than no bill at all.
One thing I’ll say about the rude awakening that Democrats received this week, it shook everyone out of their comfort zone. Nothing wrong with the noises I’m hearing about fixing this or that poison pill in reconciliation. The House seems so righteously pissed about having to eat the poop that I think odds are better that they’ll actually make it right. Probably wishful thinking, but put it this way… if the Senate bill does in fact have as many shitty parts as everyone lets on, then there’ll be that much more motivation to fix it. Hell, things got so hot for Nelson over his “Cornhusker Kickback” that he’s been preemptively begging them to take it out. How often does that happen?
Here’s another reason I like the new situation, as opposed to what we were facing a mere week ago. With 60 votes off the table, Nelson and Lieberman and the rest of the jackass caucus become instantly irrelevant. I can’t be the only one who fully expected Lieberman to screw us over and turn Republican at the final cloture vote, WWF-style, with a folding chair to Harry Reid’s head as he crossed the aisle. The supermajority actually empowers too many assholes, and in fact emboldens the GOP to be completely obstructionist. Because after all, “Dems have 60 votes, it’s not our fault they’re incompetent!” is pathetic, but had a point. Now I think (hope) we’ll see more legislation that forces them to make tough votes. For instance, I dare them to filibuster bank reform.
OK, now I’m rambling. All I’m saying is, despite all the angst coming from the netroots this week, I actually expect the Democrats to absorb these blows and come out swinging after Wednesday’s State of the Union address. If they do, it will take everyone by surprise, and they’ll get that much more credit for doing something that should have been a goddamn given all along. And if they don’t, well… I’m Ron Burgundy. Go fuck yourself, America.
UPDATE: Steve Benen has the manifesto.
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