Tuesday, November 24, 2009

History Lesson

Beutler (TPM): Sebelius Unveils State By State Analysis Of Impact Of Health Care Reform

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today unveiled state-by-state analyses of the beneficial impacts of health care reform. Using the Senate bill, the report underlines, among other things, the number of working and middle class people who would receive federal assistance, and the extent to which the legislation would reduce the number of uninsured in that state.

So, to pick three states totally at random, if you wanted to know what the goodies for Nebraska, Arkansas, and Louisiana, would be, you can just click.

And, in case you're wondering, the reports do not address the state-by-state impact of the public option.

A bit of history from one who was there - O'Donnell.
Reform haunted by ghosts of bills past? Nov. 23: Senator Sherrod Brown explains why he's optimistic about the passage of the Senate health reform bill with guest host (and former Senate staffer) Lawrence O'Donnell.
Marshall: More on Filibusters

A political scientist TPM Reader begs to differ with TPM Reader JB on the filibuster and the difficulty of getting hard bills through the senate ...

I am a political scientist who has studied the Senate filibuster. As much as I'd like to agree with JB's post, it misses the mark in important ways -- leading people to blame Obama and Reid for what is really way beyond their control. (Note: that is not to say that Reid hasn't made mistakes or Obama has not made mistakes -- but that is a separate question).
Here is the issue: JB writes: "If this had not been the case, legislation like the 1986 Tax Reform Act (which overhauled the entire federal tax code), the Goldwater-Nichols bill of that year restructuring the Pentagon, and the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments could never have been enacted." Here is the problem: all of those pieces of legislation passed with overwhelming majorities voting yes -- far more than 60 votes. For example, the Senate passed Golwater Nichols with 95 or 96 yea votes; Clean Air Act passed 89-11. Even if a few yes votes would've rather seen the bill fail, this is no way comparable to health care today. In other words, filibusters could not succeed in the Tax Reform, Goldwater-Nichols, Clean Air Act cases etc because if someone filibustered, more than 60 senators would genuinely want to end the filibuster so that the bill would pass. Today, there are not 60 senators who want the bill to pass, as it currently stands. That is lousy, but it is not something that Harry Reid could change by being a better legislative strategist. JB is right that it was not always this way: before the 1970s, it was pretty common for major, controversial bills to pass the Senate absent a filibuster-proof supportive majority. But since then, the filibuster has become so widely accepted (and so costless) that it is a real veto (except when reconciliation is an option -- which is not so feasible here) absent 60 votes. Note also: the idea of citing the southern Democrats as at all restrained on civil rights opposition is laughable. The only reason the 1964 Civil Rights Act could pass is that LBJ and the Democrats made enough concessions to Dirksen to get enough GOP votes to have 67 for cloture (which was the threshold back then). Fortunately, Dirksen was not anywhere near as conservative as today's Republicans, so the concessions were not as substantial as would be required to get GOPers on board today for any liberal legislation.

I think both readers have good points here. But, thinking back, there's any question that as recently as the 1990s filibusters (or using whatever obstructive measures to force 60 vote majorities) were much less common than they are today. Today it is treated as a given; 60 votes is the default. That simply did not used to be the case.

Some of it is a change in standards, a breakdown of informal rules, as JB suggested. But I think we're also deluding ourselves if we do not figure in a large role for larger structural changes in our politics. Simply put, the broader climate of political polarization in the country -- a socio-political reality than transcends parliamentary rules -- creates pressures for party coherence and party discipline that makes the resort to these tactics more and more the norm.


Over the weekend, Roll Call ran an online item, explaining, "With the Senate preparing to vote Saturday on whether to consider a $848 billion health care overhaul bill, national Democrats on Friday launched a rapid response system aimed at blunting each GOP criticism of the bill."

I have to say, the DNC's rapid-response fact-checking was pretty damn impressive. I lost count of how many alerts hit my inbox during the debate, but just about every time a Republican senator would make an appearance -- on the Senate floor or on one of the cable networks -- another alert went out, pointing to his/her demonstrable falsehoods. Late yesterday, the DNC posted the entire package of fact-checking items, which serves as a timeline of sorts, chronicling each bogus claim as it was made.

But let's not miss the forest for the trees here. Looking over the rapid-response list, the efficiency of the DNC operation is impressive, but the key takeaway is more important: Good lord, Republicans sure do lie a lot about health care.

I mean, GOP lawmakers weren't even close to the truth. Watching the debate as it unfolded, one got the sense that reform's opponents either know literally nothing about the issue at hand, prefer almost pathological levels of dishonesty, or perhaps both.

Over the weekend, Josh Marshall noted in passing that the congressional GOP lied quite a bit during the 1994 reform debate, but Republicans are now "upping their game ... lying even more shamelessly than in round 1."

I'm reminded of Ruth Marcus' reaction to the House debate a few weeks ago, when she marveled at the "appalling amount of misinformation being peddled" by Republicans.

I don't mean the usual hyperbole about "a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health-care system," as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling put it. Or the tired canards about taxpayer-funded abortion or insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants. Or the extraneous claims about alleged Democratic excesses....

I mean the flood of sheer factual misstatements about the health-care bill.... You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?

Their Senate colleagues were just as offensive, shamelessly pretending as if reality had no meaning whatsoever.

John McCain, for example, said in a written statement that the reform bill would add "more than a trillion dollars to our country's deficit," would put medical decisions "in the hands of government bureaucrats," and amount to a "government takeover of our health care system." He's obviously lying. None of this is even remotely true.

But McCain and his cohorts have a strong incentive to be as blatantly dishonest as they can be. For one thing, it keeps the rabid GOP base worked up. For another, it might confuse the American mainstream, who won't know who's telling the truth and who isn't.

Ordinarily, the media would help sort this out. So much for that idea: "The media is basically letting all opponents of health care say whatever the hell they want about health care reform with little pushback. I don't know why I continue to be surprised when this happens, but I do..."

Without political consequences for dishonesty, this is only going to get worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment