21 August 2009

We Only Need 51 Senate Votes To Get It Done!

No person can tell you with precise certainty what will happen next in the struggle to reform and restructure health care in this nation. No one!

But, I can tell you these things. All the arguing, threats and misunderstandings coming out of workshops, town hall meetings and fact-finding gatherings is in so many ways utterly irrelevant. This is because there is no health care bill, as such, before us yet. That bill comes later, after the Senate and Congress reconcile the various pieces of a reform package that are currently being cobbled together. The right is attacking straw men of their own design, and we on the left are busy espousing our own wishes. No wonder moderates and centrists are confused and wary.

There's something else I can tell you. The White House and Senate Democratic leaders are very close to abandoning any pretext of bipartisanship in the crafting of a final package for the president's signature. Which is fine by me. If the GOP continues to insist that negotiation is just another word for capitulation...screw them...and let them run 2010 on a message of, "I tried to rain-wreck your health care."

Here's how it will very likely play out in the Senate this fall. First, understand that HR3200 offers most of what we want including a public option and Medicare overhaul, including ending over payments to Advantage plans, closing the donut hole, and allowing Medicare to bid for bulk discounts on drugs. HR3200 has 1017 pages and most of them are positive to meaningful health care reform. So, the Senate will likely craft a very similar bill for the conference committee , which will tailor a final piece of legislation for the president's signature.

But, Hey Fox! you yell, don't forget that Kennedy is on his deathbed, Republicans are stalling the legislation waiting for the event so that Romney can appoint someone to make them capable of waging a filibuster. Yeah, yeah I know. And it really bites. But, that is where the 51 votes come in.

Read this carefully. Most legislation in the Senate requires 60-votes to overcome a filibuster, but certain budget-related measures can pass with 51-votes through a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation. Democrats could split the bill and put the more fractious changes (Public Option, for example) under that procedure and leave for a separate vote other changes such as new regulations and rules for insurers which would include ending the practise of denial of coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.

Got it? Only 51-votes could get the job done.

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