Posts Tagged ‘filibuster’

Pass the bill, change the rules

December 18, 2009

Over at The New York Times, Paul Krugman is saying, “Pass the health-care bill awready, jeez.” But with more elegance, of course. Like Kevin Drum, he says the measure is flawed, but better than nothing, which is what history shows we will have for the better part of quite some time if this latest attempt at reform goes down in flames:

“Whereas flawed social insurance programs have tended to get better over time, the story of health reform suggests that rejecting an imperfect deal in the hope of eventually getting something better is a recipe for getting nothing at all.”

I’m not nearly as smart as Krugman — you may not be, either — but it’s clear to even a dummy like me that our present system is unsustainable. Health insurance constitutes the second biggest bill we pay here at the DogHaus, right behind the mortgage, and we’re just two people who are reasonably healthy when not falling off our bikes. And nearly every experience we’ve had with an insurer has involved a monumental clusterfuck of some kind, including botched billings, unintelligible paperwork and exorbitant premium increases that make a mob loan shark seem positively angelic by comparison.

Some of this has to do with the employer-based structure of U.S. health insurance. I don’t have an employer, so I can either cut a deal on my own — the last time we did that it involved a monumental deductible and paying full retail at the sawbones and pharmacy — or piggyback on Herself’s policy, which at various times and places has looked not unlike robbery with violence, with one plan for single people and another for families, but no mid-priced offering for a man and wife unencumbered by offspring.

Drum concedes that the Senate plan kowtows to powerful interests like the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, adding, “But that’s why they’re called powerful interests: because they can kill your legislative priorities if you don’t assuage them.” In return, he continues:

“(T)he Senate bill brings down insurance rates, expands Medicaid, offers the prospect of moderately priced insurance to tens of millions of the uninsured, forces insurers to take you on even if you have a chronic pre-existing condition, mandates minimum levels of coverage, and takes several small but important steps toward reducing the future growth of healthcare costs.  That’s an enormous advance for the progressive agenda.”

We’ll see. Or maybe not. It’s far from a done deal. But if the sausage gets made, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson should be next to go into the grinder. And let’s toss the filibuster in there with the sonsabitches. Krugman again:

“The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution. They’re a Senate tradition, and that same tradition said that the threat of filibusters should be used sparingly. Well, Republicans have already trashed the second part of the tradition: look at a list of cloture motions over time, and you’ll see that since the G.O.P. lost control of Congress it has pursued obstructionism on a literally unprecedented scale. So it’s time to revise the rules.”

Can the Donks play that kind of hardball? Stay tuned.