As Harry Reid tries to push through a health-care bill in the Senate before Christmas, the ConservaDems and Queen Snowe had to make sure to cut as much out as possible that liberals wanted. Ezra Klein tracks the process as it unfolded, which many of us have followed just as closely:
To move the process forward, Reid had three options. The first, many would say, was reconciliation. But that would have required going back to the committees to refashion a reconciliation bill, and going back to the House of Representatives so it could craft a reconciliation bill, and then going back through the votes. There wasn't time for that, and even if there was, throwing the process so far back onto itself would have been an enormous risk.
The next was to cut a deal with Olympia Snowe. But Snowe had made it clear that part of any compromise with her was a deceleration in the bill's momentum. "The more they try to drive this process in an unrealistic timeframe, the more reluctant I become about whether or not this can be doable in this timeframe that we're talking about," Snowe told reporters. "There's always January."
That left Joe Lieberman. And Lieberman's price for signing onto the bill was the destruction of the public option and, unexpectedly, the Medicare buy-in provision. There would be no triggers, no opt-outs, no compromises. Lieberman swung the axe and cut his deal cleanly, killing not only the public option, but anything that looked even remotely like it. Some on the Hill remain worried that Lieberman will discover new points of contention in the coming days, as they believe he had signaled that he wouldn't filibuster the Medicare buy-in. They worry whether his word is good. But assuming it is, he can provide the 60th vote Reid needs to move the bill by the end of next week, and keep health-care reform on some sort of schedule.
Lieberman is not interested in helping the millions of Americans who need help, but screwing liberals who held him accountable for the Iraq war. Even Jay Rockefeller, who has been so strong on the public option, defended Joe's behavior, seemingly as a way to get a bill passed as soon as possible. Then the Medicare buy-in came up and we celebrated, but of course resident Lieberman couldn't allow to happen.
Senate Democrats signaled their intention Monday to back away from a plan to expand Medicare, in a bid to break a deepening impasse on sweeping health legislation.
The move came at an evening caucus convened just off the Senate floor, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and other party leaders made clear they wanted to head off a widening dispute -- pitting centrists against liberals -- over a proposal that would open Medicare to people below the age of 65.
There you have it. Everyone knows that liberals must lose, so down goes the public option and the Medicare Buy-in. The question remains whether King Joseph will allow the government to help older people with long term care needs or any of the other things that anyone could possibly construe as liberal policies.
I think we have a way to go before this bill is bad enough for him and his cronies to allow the Democrats to commit political suicide with it.
Reconciliation doesn't seem to be the way Harry Reid wants to go because it's a slow process that might not produce any meaningful results.
mcjoan has a nice wrap-up and adds:
At this point, the assistance to the people who need it most is the critical moral and policy decision. Would it be a band-aid? Yes, but even a band-aid can staunch bleeding, and right now that's what we desperately need. The insurance reforms matter a great deal, too, and can be passed through regular process. It will be a lot harder for Senators to stand up and vote to allow insurance companies to continue to deny coverage to the American people.
We have to keep fighting to strengthen the bill before conference. There are millions of people who need our help. We still haven't seen the bill yet, so we're not sure how much it would help America. Howie and I wrote a bunch of posts during the whole general election process that Barack Obama wasn't a progressive, but a moderate Democratic politician.
That's what his voting record told us. We focused on the National Journal article that tried to paint Obama as the most liberal Senator in Congress -- which was a lie -- and we wanted everybody to be aware of it during the election. And that's where we come in now along with all the other great liberal groups. Many of us believed that one of our major tasks was to keep pushing for as much progressive policies as we could as soon as we took the White House.
Conservatism has been a complete failure as an ideology to govern America. George W. Bush had to promote himself as a new kind of conservative, a Compassionate Conservative who would do things differently, but as soon as he took office that was proved to be another lie. What we witnessed for eight years of Bush was an utter disregard for working class families and a foreign policy that sanctioned torture and the "preemption doctrine." A straw man was needed so Bush and Cheney could manipulate the media to justify an invasion of Iraq that didn't attack us.
A financial bubble was allowed to proceed because without that bubble, Bush's tax cuts and conservative philosophy would have been exposed as another conservative failure before the 2004 election. The end result was a global financial meltdown.
And we can't forget about Hurricane Katrina. We witnessed firsthand how conservatives protected our country during a natural disaster.
We fight as progressives because we have to. America is not a Bill Kristol academic exercise. It's full of real Americans who are worth fighting for as they try to survive. If not for us, who will speak for them?