Did you know that the Congress is made up of only one elected body of representatives that crafts our legislation? I didn't know that. I thought we had two co-equal legislatures--a House and Senate.
Each of the 435 members of the House of Representatives represents a district and serves a two-year term. House seats are apportioned among the states by population. The 100 Senators serve staggered six-year terms. Each state has two senators, regardless of population. Every two years, approximately one-third of the Senate is elected at a time. Reelection rates for incumbents often exceed 90%. Article I of the Constitution vests all legislative power in Congress. The House and Senate are equal partners in the legislative process (legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers)
But that's not what Kent Conrad told me on Fox News Sunday.
WALLACE: Senator Conrad, what do you expect to happen? Because now this isn’t the end of the process. It’s just another step in the “Perils of Pauline.”
What do you expect to happen in the House-Senate conference next month? After struggling for months to get Senate Democrats on board to accept this, what are you going to do for Democrats who have a bill which is considerably to the left of your bill?
CONRAD: I think any bill is going to have to be very close to what the Senate has passed because we’re still going to have to get 60 votes. And anybody who’s watched this process can see how challenging it has been to get 60 votes...
WALLACE: But to go back to the question of the conference, you’re saying that you don’t -- you can’t go further, that the House is basically going to have to accept -- the House is going to have to accept the Senate bill?
CONRAD: It is very clear that the bill, the final bill, to pass in the United States Senate is going to be -- have to be very close to the bill that has been negotiated here. Otherwise you will not get 60 votes in the United States Senate.
Kent Conrad is telling the House of Representatives to go "Cheney" themselves. Are Nancy Pelosi and the progressive members of Congress listening? I wrote this last week and Conrad just made my point for me.
When the House and Senate committee members meet in conference and supposedly merge their bills, exactly what can they do to influence it at all? If the Senate bill is as far as the Gang of Four, or Six or Ten or whatever it is, are willing to go, then is the House bill nothing more than a stage prop?
Do members of the House of Representatives feel jubilation at the thought that any pieces of major legislation they are asked to put together will ultimately be decided by President Lieberman, Queen Snowe, Mary Landrone, Ben "floppy hair" Nelson and Max Baucus? I'm sure more names will be added to the list.
I really want to know how they feel.
The White House needs to understand that there are many progressive members of the House who will not vote for the Senate bill as it stands. When they meet up in conference there is supposed to be a compromise struck on the bill between both bodies. What Conrad, President Lieberman and the hairpiece known as Ben Nelson are telling 435 elected members of the HOR is that they don't matter.
Well I say to Conrad that he can "Cheney" himself -- and that's what the House should say.
I've never said to "kill the bill," as many are arguing liberals have been advocating like Howard Dean. But I do want to improve the Senate version of it and there's still time. I'm sorry that I do have some principles and want to keep on fighting. I always knew as liberals that we would be disappointed in the end, but it still can help millions of Americans in need of health care. And I would like my own premiums to stop being jacked up too.
Digby writes an excellent post that should be read in its entirety called "Clarifying Debate"
As for the internecine politics, there were numerous graceful concessions from the left from the beginning on health care that were not exactly easy to make, from single payer to the abortion language to immigrants. But it was the late dangling of a swap on the long held dream of a medicare buy-in, getting liberals to sign on and then allowing the loathed Lieberman, of all people, to capriciously snatch it away that was the real gut punch. And admonishing them to "get with the program" within minutes of that outrage while Lieberman preened that the president thanked him was gratuitous. Lucy and the football is an overused metaphor, but this was a classic. You'd have to be soulless not to be angry about that.
I'm glad Gov. Dean basically called John McCain is a damn liar after McCain spun his words into a bullshit Republican talking point. The conservative obstructionists in Congress only want to destroy health care reform for all Americans, and to me that borders on being a traitor the office they hold.
So it--you know, I respect John McCain, but it's, he wouldn't be the first person who twisted my words around and used them for something I had no intention of endorsing, which is the Republicans' behavior in this bill.
Nancy Pelosi can bring about some much needed improvement to the bill and I say go for it Nancy. Call Lieberman's bluff. If health care reform dies, it should be killed by the people who are destroying it, not by the people who have fought tooth and nail to reform a broken health-care system.
And America will know who they are.