Friday, November 20, 2009

...a bit of a loser's instinct.

Ezra Klein: Why solve problems?

"After you do one really, really big, really, really hard thing that makes everybody mad, I don't think anybody's excited about doing another really, really big thing that's really, really hard that makes everybody mad," Sen. Claire McCaskill said. "Climate fits that category."

I'm reluctant to really beat up on McCaskill for this statement, as you hear it all the time, and it is an accurate reflection of how Congress feels about, you know, working. It's good when politicians say true things. But that doesn't excuse the perversity of the legislative branch, which measures its workload in terms of political pressures rather than problems that have to be solved. It's one thing for James Inhofe to oppose climate change legislation, but for a senator who believes in the problem to feel more urgency about reelection than carbon pricing is morally astonishing.

Reading that last bit, I almost deleted this post. Beating up on Congress for caring more about politics than about problems. How trite! But that instinct is the accomplice of the problem. The fact that most members of Congress know we have a fiscal crisis looming and know we're cooking the climate and still seem more interested in reelection than in not being complicit to utter disaster is a scandal, and there's no use acting all wry and knowing about it. It's good that Congress is solving, I don't know, 45 percent of the health-care problem, but that's not the same as it being "enough." Nobody forced them to run for office, but so long as they're there, they have to deal with what the moment throws at them. They can solve fewer problems when there are fewer problems to solve.

  • from the comments:

    Claire McCaskill has a bit of a loser's instinct. It's not that "we can't do two really big hard things." The correct mindset is that "if we try to do a really big hard thing and win, then it makes winning on the next really big hard thing even easier."

    Combine this with the spite vote-- "let's show those Oklahomans who love Inhofe that Missourians think you guys are crazy!" -- and you have the potential to do something with your political power.

    Posted by: constans | November 19, 2009 5:26 PM
Smooth Like Remy: Joe Lieberman Is A Lying Sack Of Shit
I know I am not breaking any news here with the headline. But Ezra Klein fisks his latest wankery, the claim that President Obama never talked about a public option in health care before the election.

In the immortal words of Dana Milbank, "What a Dick"
Ezra Klein: Joe Lieberman says Obama didn't support a public option during the campaign

"If you look at the campaign last year, presidential, you can’t find a mention of public option,” Joe Lieberman said. “It was added after the election as a part of what we normally consider health insurance reform." That's not true, of course. Much like Lieberman's belief that the public option will increase the deficit, which has been rejected by the CBO, and has never been explained by Lieberman (requests to his office for comment or clarification were not returned).

But why go to all this trouble? Lieberman doesn't have to support the public option. He can oppose it on philosophical grounds, or on personal principles. Instead, he keeps raising verifiably untrue objections. It's baffling.
Let's see. First, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he liked the Stupak amendment and would be "highly unlikely" to vote for health care reform unless it included the language, or something very close to it, in the final bill. Then, Nelson shifted gears, saying he misunderstood a reporter's questions the first time, and is satisfied with Senate Dems' restrictions on public funding of abortion.

Now, Nelson has moved back in the other direction again.

The language in the Senate healthcare reform bill designed to bar federal funds from paying for abortions is not good enough, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) modified the healthcare bills approved by two committees in order to address concerns from anti-abortion-rights senators that the bill would change current laws prohibiting taxpayer money from being spent on abortion while not alienating abortion-rights supporters.

Reid did not succeed, according to Nelson, a key centrist swing vote Reid needs to advance his healthcare bill at a crucial test vote set for Saturday.

"We have looked at the language," Nelson told The Hill. "That language is not language that I would prefer.... I think you need to have it eminently clear that no dollars that are federal tax dollars, directly or indirectly, are used to pay for abortions and it needs to be totally clear. [It's] not clear enough, I don't think."

But here's the kicker: Nelson may be playing a little game here. Reid's measure on abortion funding is the right way to go, and Nelson almost certainly knows it. So what's the problem? Nelson wants to kill the public option once and for all. In fact, Nelson said today, "If there's no public option, perhaps some of the [abortion] problem goes away."

The problem, then, isn't with the abortion-related language -- Nelson is just looking for leverage. The message to Reid, in effect, is, "You get rid of the public option and I'll accept your provisions on abortion."

Also note, Nelson said yesterday, "If you don't like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it?" Today, he said he's undecided on whether he would block his own opportunity to amend the bill.

And speaking of "centrists," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is still threatening to kill health care reform if there's a public option -- and now thinks he can pull some other Dems with him.

Maybe now would be a good time to pause and note how unbelievably ridiculous these center-right senators are being. Harry Reid has offered them an affordable reform bill that doesn't cost too much, lowers the deficit, restricts funding of abortion, restricts aid to immigrants, and doesn't raise taxes on the middle class.

And the "centrists" are still complaining, suggesting they're not really willing to compromise on anything.

Reform advocates see remain hopeful Nov. 19: Rachel Maddow is joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar to talk about the health care debate and the fight to get conservative Democrats on board.
Think Progress: Senate health bill restores abstinence-only education funding.

President Obama’s FY2010 budget eliminated funding for abstinence-only education and school districts are increasingly moving away from such programs because they have proven to be ineffective at reducing teen pregnancy. However, Newsweek reports that the recently released Senate health care bill restores some funding for abstinence-only programs, inserted by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), which seems to be “a slight concession to the Senate’s social conservatives”:

Their provision would restore a program called Title V, which, since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, has allocated a yearly $50 million in grants to abstinence-only education programs. Obama let the program lapse in June, leaving some abstinence-only groups in dire straits. So in September, Sen. Orrin Hatch offered an amendment to restore Title V via heath-care reform, which (much to the outrage of liberal groups) just squeaked through the Senate Finance Committee with a 12–11 vote. A similar amendment, offered in the House by Rep. Terry Lee from Nebraska, died in committee.

If the Senate language survives reconciliation, the Title V program will be extended through 2014. This will not, however, bring abstinence funding back to the levels of the past decade. In 2008, Title V grants accounted for just under 25 percent of the federal abstinence budget (the rest of the budget came from other abstinence-only funding sources not restored in the Senate bill, including Community Based Abstinence Education Grants and the Adolescent Family Life Act).

Funding for comprehensive sex education is also in the bill. Sec. 2953 also provides “$75 million per year through FY2014 for Personal Responsibility Education grants to States for programs to educate adolescents on both abstinence and contraception for prevention of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.”

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