Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Benen and Booman said . . .

Several Hill sources have told me this week, "When you see the Manager's Amendment, it means Reid has his 60."

Well, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did, in fact, unveil his Manager's Amendment -- encompassing a wide variety of changes intended to satisfy a wide variety of demands -- this morning. It's online here (pdf).

And what about the caucus' lone holdout? It took a long time, excruciating back-and-forth talks, and Harry Reid having the patience of Job, but Ben Nelson appears to be on board.

Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the final Democratic holdout on health care, was prepared to announce to his caucus Saturday morning that he would support the Senate reform bill, clearing the way for final passage by Christmas.

"We're there," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), as he headed into a special meeting to announce the deal.

Asked this morning whether he was finally prepared to support the reform bill, Nelson told reporters, "Yeah."

As of about 25 minutes ago, Reid was briefing the entire caucus -- sans Lieberman, who is celebrating Hanukkah in Connecticut today -- on the contents of the Manager's Amendment. What's more, the entire text of the measure, which is nearly 400 pages, is being read on the Senate floor in its entirety right now.

We'll have a better sense of the Manager's Amendment's specific provisions in the coming hours, but a senior Democratic aide emailed me some talking points/bullets, which I've included below the fold.

From the background document:

The manager's amendment builds upon the strong bill we already have.

Protects our good coverage, cost, and affordability number

* Reduces Deficits -- estimated to save over $130 billion first ten and roughly $650 billion second ten

* Expands Coverage -- over 94 percent of Americans under 65 years of age, including over 31 million uninsured

* Reduces Costs -- most Americans will see their health care costs reduced relative to projected levels

Makes health care more affordable for Americans by expanding small business tax credits

* $12 billion increase

* Begins in 2010

* Expands wage thresholds for tax credits

Demands greater accountability from insurance companies/ creates more choice and competition

* Medical Loss Ratio 85/80 percent -- Insurance companies will be forced to spend more money on care and less money padding their bottom line.

* Starting immediately children cannot be denied health coverage due to pre-existing conditions

* Insurance companies who jack up their rates will be barred from competing in the exchange.

* Give patients the right to appeal to an independent board if an insurance company denies a coverage claim

* Health insurers will offer national plans to Americans under the supervision of the Office of Personnel Management, the same entity that oversees health plans for Members of Congress.

* Provides significant resources for Community Health Centers

  • Joe Sudbay adds:
    UPDATE @ 10:00: It's official. At his presser, Nelson said he will vote for cloture and for the reform bill. On abortion, "I have fought hard to prevent tax dollars from being used to subsidize abortions...I believe we have accomplished that goal." Nelson also said there will be a "limited conference" between the House and Senate. If there are ""material changes" to the Senate bill in conference, he will vote against cloture. So, Ben Nelson now runs the House, too.

The rest is a Booman HCR thread

Serious Question
Do you get the feeling that if all else fails to kill the health care reform bill the Republicans will start pulling the fire alarms and phoning in bomb threats? Maybe Sam Brownback will throw a stink-bomb.
Late Night Republican Obstruction
It's almost 1:30 in the morning and the Senate is still in session. They just voted to invoke cloture on the Defense Appropriations Bill that funds the troops in the field. The prior appropriations bill expires later today, so the fact that they had to invoke cloture (versus just voting on the damn thing) means that there will be at least the better part of a day (later today and Saturday morning) when the troops are operating without any money. If you're interested in the details, read David Waldman's explanation. Basically, there are always at least 30 hours of post-cloture debate. So, because Jon Kyl denied his consent to fund the troops tonight, we have to wait until seven in the morning on Saturday to do that.

The goal is simply to chew up legislative hours and try to kill the health care reform bill. The vote was 63-33, and the Democrats had to wheel Robert Byrd in to make sure they reached the 60 votes needed for cloture. I know that at least three Republicans bucked their party on this one, but the only one I know by name is Kay Bailey Hutchison. I guess she didn't need a vote against funding the troops on her resume when she goes up against Governor Rick Perry in the Texas gubernatorial primary next year.

Prior to the vote, Dick Durbin asked for unanimous consent to wave the cloture vote and move straight to a vote on the bill. Jon Kyl denied his consent and he and Mitch McConnell proceeded to deny that they were filibustering because they weren't debating the bill to death like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Of course, denying unanimous consent to waive a cloture vote is basically what a filibuster is. We normally think of filibusters that are successful. In other words, we normally only call it a filibuster if it succeeds in preventing a bill from being voted on. But filibusters can fail, too. And that is what just happened with the Defense Appropriations Bill. They tried to filibuster it but failed. But that failure was by design. They had no intention of preventing a vote on funding the troops. They just want it to take place on Saturday instead of today.

And with that, good night.

Big State, Little State
By my count, 34 of the 53 members of the House of Representatives from California are Democrats, while none of the three representatives from Nebraska are Democrats. Yet, in the Senate, the ratio is 2:1. Put another way, California Democrats make up 8% of the House, but only 2% of the Senate, while Nebraska Democrats make up 0% of the House and 1% of the Senate. If the Senate had the same weight of representation as the House, Ben Nelson wouldn't exist and there would be four Barbara Boxers and four Diane Feinsteins.

The situation is even starker for states like Massachusetts (10 Democrats, 0 Republicans) and New York (27 Democrats, 2 Republicans). That Kent Conrad has the same voting power as Chuck Schumer helps explain why the Senate Dems are not representative of the Democratic Party. This is always true, but it is particularly true in our current situation where the electorate gave the Democrats huge majorities and a president to get big things done. But they can't be done. At least, they can't be done the way we want them done. Add the 60 vote threshold for passing legislation, and the Senate is so far right of the party and the country that it's a bad joke.

But the Founding Fathers didn't trust the passions of the people. And they had to strike a deal to get the states to join the union. So, we have this undemocratic Senate that is opposed to change. You'd hope small state senators like Ben Nelson would have a little humility about holding up the president's number one priority item. But it would be a false hope.

A Leopard's Spots

Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 11:57:50 AM EST

What we are seeing right now is a semi-coordinated, semi-spontaneous revolt on the left to the latest compromises in the Senate health care reform bill. We can talk about the wisdom and possible efficacy of this revolt, but the administration has to deal with the left they have, not the left that they might wish to have (to use some Rumsfeldian logic). What the administration is facing is a consequence of the left having to eat too much shit on a whole host of issues from military commissions, a failure to root out and punish the crimes and practices of the Bush administration, the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a too-friendly bailout of Wall Street, and now a health care bill that bears little resemblance to what Obama promised us in the campaign.

Obama can't pass anything that doesn't have unanimous support in the Democratic caucus because of the ruthless obstruction and opposition of the Republican Party. This forces him to govern to the center and make all his compromises with centrist Democrats and/or the two still-existing centrist Republicans in the Senate. The Republican obstruction empowers people like Joe Lieberman. It actually gives veto power to every single senator, but the only way to make up for a defecting Democrat is to win over Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins. So, if Bernie Sanders or Roland Burris revolt, he has to move the bill further to the right in response.

The left is immensely frustrated with this situation and inclined to blame the administration, but this is a simple logic tree. Obama cannot push the progressive position on pretty much anything if the centrists refuse to go along. Compounding the problem, progressives don't really know how to influence centrists. They tend to insult them, call them whores, attack their families, and generally question their morals. Over time, this sets up the situation we saw with Lieberman where he switched positions on a Medicare buy-in proposal simply because the measure was pleasing to people who have been demonizing him for over three years. Rather than persuade the Ben Nelsons and Blanche Lincolns of the Senate, progressive tactics make them even more inclined to reject anything they perceive to be coming from the left.

It's quite possible that the health care bill we're looking at right now is worse than it would have been if ads and insults weren't hurled at the people who have control over what will be in the bill. It reminds me of the campaign against General David Petraeus. Rather than educating the public about what was anticipated to be misleading testimony before Congress, would up being censored by Congress, and the anti-war movement never recovered. That didn't mean that MoveOn was wrong on the merits, only that they had a tin-ear and pursued self-defeating strategies.

But, if I have learned anything in my years of political activism, it's that the left will act like the left, the right will act like the right, and that this is something it is foolish to ignore. You can't plead, beg, or reason with people who are just wired to act the way they do. You have to know that if you make the left eat shit that they will react in predictable ways. They'll get demoralized. They'll blame you and your motives and your morals, even if your actions are basically dictated by the makeup and behavior of Congress.

The Obama administration can't satisfy the left legislatively, but they need to recognize the need to satisfy us whenever and wherever they can. That means that the administration needs to throw bones to the left in appointments, and executive decisions that don't require congressional approval. It means that they need to show more respect for what people are trying to do to assist them. It means that they need to show more fight.

Otherwise, they are going to run into a wall of opposition on the left and the right. Look at this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that it's up to President Barack Obama to persuade reluctant Democrats to fund his Afghanistan troop buildup — his most important foreign policy initiative — because she has no plans to do so herself.

Pelosi's reluctance to lobby for an Afghan surge appropriation reflects the deep divisions within the Democratic Party over Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

This isn't much different from the position the left is now taking on health care. The SEIU, Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann, Bernie Sanders and many bloggers are arguing that the health care bill should be defeated. Imagine that. Some of Obama's best allies are now fighting on the side of Tom Coburn to kill the president's number one priority.

That's just what people on the left do. We splinter. The Republicans stick together no matter how disastrous their course. We fly apart and attack each other. You can't change a leopard's spots, but you can take account of its teeth. If the Obama administration wants to avoid a disastrous meltdown in the big-tent Democratic Party, they need to do a much better job figuring out how to give the left some victories. We've eaten too much shit, and now you have a big problem.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What Ezra and Paul and ... said...

From Daily Dish, Reader Jokes #1:

A chicken and an egg are making love.

The chicken climaxes, rolls over, lights up a cigarette and says, "Well, I guess that settles that!"
No one has done a better job of analyzing the health policy debate than Ezra Klein, who writes the Economic and Domestic Policy blog at the Post.

Ezra Klein: Can insurers use monopoly pricing under health-care reform?

"If insurance companies know people will be forced to buy policies, why would they lower premium prices?" Asks eegeterman over Twitter. "Why wouldn't they RAISE prices?"

I've been hearing this a bit today, so let's talk it through. In a world of one private insurance company and an individual mandate, it makes perfect sense. In a world of exchanges, with a dozen competing insurance plans, including national nonprofits, it doesn't.

Imagine that Blue Cross Blue Shield prices according to this monopolist logic. Their policy would normally cost $11,000. But people have to buy in, right? So they price at $13,500. For, say, Kaiser Permanente, whose policy costs $10,500, this is an opportunity. The market leader just jacked their prices up. So Kaiser begins advertising aggressively. Our policy, they say, is $1,500 cheaper than "our competitor's plans." The next year, people log onto the insurance exchange Web site to confirm their insurance plan for the year. Scrolling through the options, they notice that BCBS is way more expensive than Kaiser, or frankly, than everyone.

Maybe that's because Kaiser is worse? But consumer ratings, which are now available, show that Kaiser has a comparable satisfaction rating. Maybe it's because BCBS offers more? But no, the insurers have to list their benefits in a standard way, and it's pretty clear that BCBS isn't giving you more for your money. Ten minutes later, BCBS has lost a customer and Kaiser has gained one.

That's the market's solution to this problem. But the exchanges actually have a fail-safe solution, too. Rewind the tape to BCBS's decision to jack up premiums. Imagine that BCBS insures 420,000 people in California's exchange. As directed by law, they duly submit a notice to the Exchange Board saying they're increasing premiums. The exchange sends a letter back noting that underlying health-care trends don't justify that increase, which they're allowed to do under the law. BCBS says it doesn't care. The exchange, which doesn't much feel like being bullied, says fine, you're decertified. BCBS loses more than 400,000 customers, and has to reapply the next year.

And then, of course, there's the excise tax. Jack up your prices enough and suddenly you're paying a 40 percent surtax on the plan you're offering. Now you're way more expensive than the competition, and you're hemorrhaging customers.
Health-care reform isn't creating a monopoly market. There are other industries where people need to patronize some for-profit company. Food, for instance. But if there are a variety of companies competing for customers, monopoly problems don't emerge.

Under health-care reform, there are at least three bulwarks against the monopoly-profits scenario: Inter-insurer competition, regulators, and the tax on excessive premiums. Two of these mechanisms don't exist in the current market. One -- the market itself -- is much weaker and more opaque, and individuals have a far harder time navigating it.

At this point, I should have a macro on my keyboard for this concluding line: Is it perfect? No. Is it good enough? Maybe not, even. Is it better than what we have?


Update: Some have responded that this might all be well and good, but in some states, insurers already have near-monopolies. This is true, though it's not true in most states. But the point of the exchanges is that those monopolies are easier to break. Right now, it's very hard to switch insurers. It's hard to compare plans. Hard to shop for new plans. Hard to figure out whether one plan is better than another. And in a lot of states, there aren't many insurers offering plans.

Not so in the exchanges. It's easy to shop, to compare. The benefits are listed in a standardized format and accompanied by consumer ratings. Add in the presence of national plans, both for-profit and non-profit, and you should see a lot more competition. And if there isn't much competition, a state can link its exchange to that of its neighbors. Delaware might not be much of a market, but Pennsylvania is. That may not reduce the stranglehold a single insurer has over existing businesses, but the exchanges can only serve those who can access them. That's why I've long argued the importance of opening them up to larger employers.

For all that, it's still possible that the exchanges won't be sufficiently competitive, and we will want to do more down the road (like opening them!). But, again, it's a lot better than what we have now.

A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy. Declare that you’re disappointed in and/or disgusted with President Obama. Demand a change in Senate rules that, combined with the Republican strategy of total obstructionism, are in the process of making America ungovernable.

But meanwhile, pass the health care bill.

Yes, the filibuster-imposed need to get votes from “centrist” senators has led to a bill that falls a long way short of ideal. Worse, some of those senators seem motivated largely by a desire to protect the interests of insurance companies — with the possible exception of Mr. Lieberman, who seems motivated by sheer spite.

But let’s all take a deep breath, and consider just how much good this bill would do, if passed — and how much better it would be than anything that seemed possible just a few years ago. With all its flaws, the Senate health bill would be the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare, greatly improving the lives of millions. Getting this bill would be much, much better than watching health care reform fail.

At its core, the bill would do two things. First, it would prohibit discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of medical condition or history: Americans could no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or have their insurance canceled when they get sick. Second, the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance.

All of this would be paid for in large part with the first serious effort ever to rein in rising health care costs.

The result would be a huge increase in the availability and affordability of health insurance, with more than 30 million Americans gaining coverage, and premiums for lower-income and lower-middle-income Americans falling dramatically. That’s an immense change from where we were just a few years ago: remember, not long ago the Bush administration and its allies in Congress successfully blocked even a modest expansion of health care for children.

Bear in mind also the lessons of history: social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by. Thus Social Security originally had huge gaps in coverage — and a majority of African-Americans, in particular, fell through those gaps. But it was improved over time, and it’s now the bedrock of retirement stability for the vast majority of Americans.

Look, I understand the anger here: supporting this weakened bill feels like giving in to blackmail — because it is. Or to use an even more accurate metaphor suggested by Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, we’re paying a ransom to hostage-takers. Some of us, including a majority of senators, really, really want to cover the uninsured; but to make that happen we need the votes of a handful of senators who see failure of reform as an acceptable outcome, and demand a steep price for their support.

The question, then, is whether to pay the ransom by giving in to the demands of those senators, accepting a flawed bill, or hang tough and let the hostage — that is, health reform — die.

Again, history suggests the answer. Whereas flawed social insurance programs have tended to get better over time, the story of health reform suggests that rejecting an imperfect deal in the hope of eventually getting something better is a recipe for getting nothing at all. Not to put too fine a point on it, America would be in much better shape today if Democrats had cut a deal on health care with Richard Nixon, or if Bill Clinton had cut a deal with moderate Republicans back when they still existed.

But won’t paying the ransom now encourage more hostage-taking in the future? Maybe. But the next big fight, over the future of the financial system, will be very different. If the usual suspects try to water down financial reform, I say call their bluff: there’s not much to lose, since a merely cosmetic reform, by creating a false sense of security, could well end up being worse than nothing.

Beyond that, we need to take on the way the Senate works. The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution. They’re a Senate tradition, and that same tradition said that the threat of filibusters should be used sparingly. Well, Republicans have already trashed the second part of the tradition: look at a list of cloture motions over time, and you’ll see that since the G.O.P. lost control of Congress it has pursued obstructionism on a literally unprecedented scale. So it’s time to revise the rules.

But that’s for later. Right now, let’s pass the bill that’s on the table.

Krugman: Massachusetts health care polling

Gah. I see that some people are still using the Rasmussen polling on MA’s health care reform. You shouldn’t do that, because

1. It’s Rasmussen
2. It asks the wrong questions

The right poll to look at, which I’ve cited in the past, is this one from the Boston Globe and the Harvard School of Public Health, which asked people whether they want the reform to continue or to be reversed. The answer: 79 percent want it to continue.

Once you have even a rough approximation to universal coverage, people don’t want to go back.


By most head-counts, the Senate Democratic health care proposal has 59 votes. Because the Senate can be an absurd institution, legislation with 59 supporters out of 100 members necessarily fails.

The only holdout in the Democratic caucus -- the one who continues to hold reform hostage -- is, of course, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. He not only continues to oppose the bill, he's prepared to join a Republican filibuster, preventing the Senate from even voting on health care reform at all.

As the NYT noted this morning, the conservative Nebraskan is the subject of considerable attention right now.

Mr. Nelson, a former governor, state insurance commissioner and insurance company executive now serving his second Senate term, is the focus of increasingly intense entreaties by Mr. Reid and the White House. He has met personally with President Obama three times in the last nine days, and daily with Mr. Reid.

Pete Rouse, a senior White House adviser, has been assigned specifically to address Mr. Nelson's concerns. Senator Bob Casey, a freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania and a prominent opponent of abortion rights, was tapped to devise some sort of compromise language on coverage for abortions to bring Mr. Nelson on board. [...]

To help divine Mr. Nelson's thinking, a wide array of Democrats have reached out to him in recent days, including former Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.

To date, Nelson has rejected compromise language, and compromises on the compromises. As of yesterday, he threw cold water on the idea of approving a bill by Christmas, and even raised the specter of scaling back whole portions of the bill, which would likely delay the process for months, and probably kill it altogether.

What's interesting, though, is that after reading Nelson's remarks yesterday, I was inclined to think the game is up -- reform by Christmas was an impossibility, and the entire effort may very well die at the hands of a Republican filibuster (with Nelson's help). But notice: everyone on the Hill keeps working towards the reform-by-Christmas goal. The leadership is well aware of what Nelson said and what Nelson has threatened, but Reid, Durbin, and others continue to work towards their deadline, and occasionally yesterday even sounded vaguely optimistic.

It's enough to make observers wonder, "Do they know something the rest of us don't?" The answer, apparently, is, "Maybe."

Sometime very soon -- and by that I mean, possibly today -- one of three things will have to happen. Either a) someone can convince Nelson to change his mind, possibly with yet another compromise offer; b) someone can convince Nelson to oppose the bill but let the Senate vote on it; or c) Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will break ranks.

The Senate leadership must think one of those three remains possible, or they wouldn't be working so hard to reach the Christmas deadline. That said, I simply have no idea which of those three has even the slightest chance of happening.

Aravosis: Rep. Kissell's vote against health care "has enraged fellow Democrats" back home

The people who elected Larry Kissell last November aren't happy with Rep. Larry Kissell:

Fueled by the liberal grass roots, Democrat Larry Kissell stitched together a winning message about jobs and kitchen-table concerns, including rising health insurance costs, and he rode the Obama wave to unseat a five-term GOP congressman by 11 percentage points. Democrats here rejoiced. Finally, they were sending to Washington a representative to fight for their interests -- and to help enact the new president's agenda.

Now, one year later, the euphoria has given way to second thoughts at best and outright rebellion at worst. Kissell is siding with Republicans on Obama's top domestic priority, fixing the nation's health insurance system, and his "no" vote has enraged fellow Democrats.

As they plunge into next year's midterm contests, Republicans and Democrats are making dicey calculations with their health-care votes, each weighing the demands of their party's base against the political climates of their districts. With Republicans opposing the bill in lock step, the White House needs a fragile coalition of Democrats to enact reform, but it is vulnerable Democrats like Kissell who form the greatest obstacle.

And that is why Democrats here are steaming.

"People want change, and when someone puts their foot in the door to kill the whole thing, that's what has them riled up," said Michael Lawson, an African American leader of the state Democratic Party and one of Kissell's constituents. "It's almost like 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,' but Mr. Smith turned out to be somebody that wasn't Mr. Smith."
Imagine expecting a politician to actually keep his or her promises. Imagine that.

How do politicians expect to be reelected when they piss off the people who do the most work to get elected? Something happens to good people who run for office when they get to Washington. They start out with good intentions, but go through something like akin to high-powered car wash that strips them of their authenticity and humanity. Rahm Emanuel is the CEO of the car wash and the stripping process is orchestrated by the professional D.C. Democrats, consisting of the over-paid consultants, long-time hill staffers and fundraising types.

When politicians actually lead and aren't afraid of taking hard votes and don't cower, people respond positively. Leadership matters. When those politicians get all squirrely and only worry about reelection, they become just run-of-mill politicians, nothing more. That's what team Obama has done to the President. And, it's what Larry Kissell has done to himself.
Appel: Politics In The Real World

Megan tells it like it is:

Ultimately, the moderates had a very good alternative to negotiated agreement, and the progressives didn't, and that was crystal clear from Day 1. That meant the progressives were never, ever going to get very much. This was not a failure of political will or political skill. It was the manifestation of a political reality that has long been obvious to everyone who wasn't living in a fantasy world. If progressives decide that the lesson from this is that they haven't been sufficiently demanding and intransigent, they are going to find themselves about as popular with the rest of America as the Bush Republicans, and probably lose their party the House next year.

Booman: Quote of the Day
From Boner:

House Minority Leader John Boehner told reporters today his party is pumped for campaign season. As the calendar ticks down on 2009, Boehner says he likes his party's chances at making significant gains against what he sees as a fractured Democratic majority.

"The Democrats seems to be having a field day tearing each other apart," he said. "I think 2010 will be a stormy year."

And this is precisely what their obstruction is supposed to do. Any questions?

White House Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle and Senior Advisor David Axelrod hosted a 30-minute conference call with bloggers last night (I was one of several who participated) to discuss the reform bill. They covered a fair amount of ground, but there was one response from Axelrod that stood out.

Susie Madrak posted the audio of the conference call, and wrote up a detailed report on the discussion topics, which included re-importation, enforcement of new insurance regulations, annual caps on health care expenses, and recent polling data.

Of particular interest, though, was Axelrod's response to a question about Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who continues to threaten to hold health care hostage.

"We are working hard to persuade Senator Nelson that this is in the best interest of Nebraska and his constituents and the country. And we will continue to do that as we will with other members of the Senate," Axelrod said. "And the main thing I would say to him and others members of the Senate is that after a long, long, long and thorough debate, let us have a vote.

"What we are arguing about today is not whether a majority support the bill in the Senate," Axelrod added. "A majority does. What we are arguing about is whether they will have a chance to express themselves and vote -- or whether a minority will thwart the majority and keep that vote from happening.

"And so my hope is that for Senator Nelson, who has always said under Republican administrations that we shouldn't use procedural maneuvers to try and keep bills from coming to the floor, that he will not allow that to happen here."

That's probably about as critical as any White House official has been of Nelson during the process. It's also a good point.

I don't doubt that all of the relevant players are well aware of this, but I still think the strongest possible pitch with Nelson is "just let the Senate vote." Whether he meant it or not is unclear, but Nelson has always denounced obstructionism. Now he can prove his sincerity.

Nelson doesn't have to like the bill; he doesn't even have to vote on the bill. He just has to clear the way for his colleagues to have a say after a grueling year.

Fat chance of that . . .
JedL (DK): Ben Nelson: Bill covers too many uninsured people, must be scaled back

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) gave one hell of an interview yesterday to Lincoln, Nebraska’s KLIN-AM radio, expanding his 'cloture ransom' to include more than just massive new restrictions on abortion. Nelson is now demanding that the bill be "scaled back" to cover fewer than the 30 million promised by Pres. Obama, that its revenue provisions be eliminated, and that its Medicaid expansion be made voluntary. Not surprisingly, he says he can't imagine that the legislation will pass the Senate by Christmas.

Here's audio:

Nelson's key points:

  1. Asked if he would vote for cloture even if his initiative to restrict abortion were adopted, Nelson flatly said "no."
  1. Nelson not only said a vote before Christmas was not feasible, he joked about it taking until next Christmas.
  1. Nelson said unless the bill's Medicaid expansion provisions were made optional he would oppose cloture.
  1. Nelson said the bill's revenue provisions were unacceptable because the economy was bad.
  1. Nelson said because the subsidies which provide the bill's coverage expansion couldn't be paid for without additional revenue, they needed to be "scaled-back"
  1. Nelson also that unless cost control were addressed first, coverage couldn't be expanded.

In sum: unless Ben Nelson is bluffing, the only way he will vote for cloture is if abortion is restricted, the subsidies are whacked, the revenue provisions are nuked, and its Medicaid expansion is gutted. Oh, and he doesn't think there's any chance of it happening by Christmas.

So now that Ben Nelson has named his price (not that he can't move the goalposts again), Democratic leadership must choose one of three scenarios: (a) cave in to Nelson's demands Lieberman-style, thereby eliminating any pretense of this being a good bill; (b) call Nelson's bluff and schedule a cloture vote without satisfying his demands; or (c) abandoning negotiations with Nelson and choosing instead to pursue reconciliation.

The one thing they can't do is blame kos or Howard Dean or progressives for killing health reform. If health reform dies, it will be at the hands of the Joe Liebermans and Ben Nelsons of the world -- and the people who negotiated with them.

Black and White

It increasingly appears that "conservative" = "stupid" - at least political conservatives. The ConservaDems are no better than Repuglicans.
John Cole: Blue Dog

Means almost as stupid as Republicans:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) muscled a $154 billion jobs bill through the House on Wednesday evening just before Congress departed for a holiday recess. With the vote in serious doubt until seconds before it was gaveled to a close, Pelosi worked the floor furiously, imploring her caucus to stick with her and move the measure through.

The bill passed 217-212, but when the time on the clock expired, it was losing 208-212. A few minutes later, when it hit 214-213 and then 215-213, someone shouted “gavel it!” from the Democratic side. A bill doesn’t need the full 218 to pass—only a simple majority of those voting. The presiding officer took the suggestion and closed the vote.

Not a single Republican approved of the bill.

The slim margin is strong evidence that deficit hawks have momentum in the ideological battle between one camp that demands more spending on job creation and another, dominated by the GOP and Blue Dog Democrats, calling for immediate reductions in the deficit. Even the fact that the money was being redirected from Wall Street couldn’t sway 38 Democrats, who voted with the Republicans.

No Blue Dog is going to lose his seat in 2010 because of the size of the deficit or the national debt. Plenty of blue dogs are going to lose their seats because THEIR CONSTITUENTS HAVE NO JOBS. So obviously, the logic is clear if you are a blue dog- vote against the jobs bill.

And no doubt when these idiots lose, some internet activist somewhere will claim it is because Obama is not progressive enough and Rahm Emmanuel hates the netroots.

Rev Wright's got nuttin on these guys. But these guys are "conservative" white crazies so it's all fine. . . .

Senators team with religious right on reform obstruction Dec. 17: Rachel Maddow reports on the recent PrayerCast led by Christian activist Lou Engle and attended by sitting senators who prayed for health reform's defeat.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

DougJ: He’s in love with Jim Jones whoa

As much as I hate to link to the Politico....

Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.), chairman of the Republican Governors Association, called the Democrats’ health care reform proposal “catastrophic” Thursday and compared it to the poison ingested at the infamous Jonestown cult’s mass suicide in 1978.

At a press conference, flanked by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Barbour said that if the Senate passes the health care reform bill, it would result in huge electoral gains for the GOP in 2010.


“I’ve been looking for Jim Jones and where’s the Kool-Aid. This is awful, awful policy for our country — and the people know it. The public already understands this. And the longer the debate goes on, the more the public understands that they’re going to end up paying more and that they’re going to get lower quality health care. But politically, if the nation can survive it, it will be a political windfall for Republicans.”

Barbour, Alexander, and Gregg represent the supposedly sane wing of the GOP that David Broder is always fluffing. And, in fairness, they are saner than the teabaggers and the Khmer Rogue.

But, the end, Obama is no different, not after the way he’s slapped us all in the face this week.

Contrast to this . . .


Maybe this is an esoteric point, but it occurs to me that the quality of the policy debate between competing progressive contingents is infinitely better and more interesting than the policy debate between Democrats and Republicans we witnessed over the last eight or nine months. It's probably an inconsequential observation, but I think it nevertheless speaks to a larger truth.

The thought came to me after reading two op-eds this morning -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) attacking health care reform from the right in the Wall Street Journal, and former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) going after reform from the left in the Washington Post. Both called for the defeat of the Senate Democratic plan, and both were written by leading figures on their respective side of the ideological fence, but only one had something sensible to offer.

Coburn's piece was absurd, wildly misleading, and included arguments that seemed oddly detached from the substantive reality of the debate. Dean's piece, which I personally disagree with, was nevertheless policy focused, serious, and credible. Dean's piece conveys the concerns of someone who cares deeply about health care and improving the dysfunctional system, while Coburn's piece reads like someone auditioning to be Sean Hannity's fill-in guest host.

Of course, it's not just two op-eds on a Thursday that bolster the point. Much has been made this week of the often-intense dispute between activists and wonks -- progressive reform advocates who think the Democratic plan has merit and is worth passing, and progressive reform advocates who think the Democratic plan is a failure and should be defeated. It's an important dispute, with significant implications.

But notice the quality of the debate. Note that Howard Dean, Markos Moulitsas, much of the FireDogLake team and others are raising important questions and pointing to real flaws. At the same time, note that Ezra Klein, Jonathan Cohn, Nate Silver and others are offering meaningful defenses of the Democratic plan, based on substantive evaluations.

Progressive activists and progressive wonks are at each other's throats this week, but they want largely the same goals. Their differences are sincere and significant, but the intensity of their dispute is matched by the potency of their arguments.

And then turn your attention to the other side of the divide, and notice the quality of the arguments conservatives and Republicans have offered -- and continue to offer -- in this debate. Death panels. Socialism. Hitler. Government takeover. Socialized medicine. Incomprehensible charts. Incessant whining about the number of pages in a proposal.

The United States could have had a great debate this year about one of the most important domestic policies of them all. But Americans were denied that debate, because the right didn't have an A game to bring. Intellectual bankruptcy left conservatives with empty rhetorical quivers.

But as it turns out, it's not too late for the debate, we were just looking in the wrong place. We expected the fight of the generation to occur between the right and left, when the more relevant and interesting dispute was between left and left.

Time will tell who'll win, and no matter what happens, the argument will continue beyond this one piece of legislation. But regardless what side of the dispute you're on, it's worth appreciating the vibrancy, energy, and seriousness with which progressives are engaging in the debate, as compared to the incoherent, ridiculous, and dull qualities our friends on the right have brought to the table.

Krugman: Health care and Iraq

Steve Benen is right: for the most part the debate among progressives about whether the final product on health reform is worth supporting has been edifying. Serious people are making serious arguments, in a way that puts conservatives, who have offered nothing but smears and lies, very much to shame.

That said, some of the arguments here annoy me — in particular the line I’ve been hearing from some quarters that progressives who say we should hold our noses and pass the flawed Senate bill are just like the “liberal hawks” who supported the Iraq war.

No, they aren’t. And I don’t say that just because, as it happens, I stuck my neck way out in opposing Iraq, and was more or less the only columnist with a spot in a major newspaper to say outright that the Bush administration was misleading us into war.

Look, I don’t know for sure what motivated the liberal hawks; you’ll have to ask them. Some, I hope, were genuinely naive: despite all the signs that we were being sold a bill of goods, they just couldn’t believe that an American president would start a war on false pretenses. Others, I suspect, were being careerists, aligning themselves with where the power seemed to lie; sad to say, their career calculations were justified, since to this day you’re generally not considered “serious” on national security unless you were wrong about the war.

What’s going on with health care is very different. Those who grudgingly say “pass the thing” — a camp I have reluctantly joined — aren’t naive: by and large they’re wonks who have looked at the legislation quite carefully, understand both its virtues and its flaws, and have decided that it’s a lot better than nothing. And there isn’t much careerism involved: if you’re a progressive pundit or wonk, the risks of alienating the people to your left are at least a match for the risks of alienating people to your right.

Now, the pass-the-thing people could be wrong. Maybe hopes of improving the new health care system over time, the way Social Security has been improved, will prove to have been fantasies; or maybe rejecting this bill and trying again, a strategy that has failed many times in the past, would work this time. But it’s a carefully thought-out, honest position. And arriving at that position has, in my case at least, required a lot of agonized soul-searching.

And maybe I’m being unfair, but I don’t seem to see the same degree of soul-searching on the other side. Too much of what I read seems to come from people who haven’t really faced up to what it will mean for progressive hopes — not to mention America’s uninsured — if health care reform crashes and burns, yet again.

This is a moment of truth; it’s not a time for cheap shots or name-calling.

Matthews, proving once again that he knows nothing. Many of the Netroot's most prominent sites are run by people with years of experience on the Hill.

Think Progress: Matthews: The netroots ‘get their giggles from sitting in the backseat and bitching.’

Today on MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews brought on John Heilemann from the New Yorker to talk about President Obama’s popularity with Democrats. When Heilemann noted that the “Democratic left” has been “trashing the health care bill” this week, Matthews said that those people were part of the “netroots” and not “regular grown-up Democrats”:

MATTHEWS: I don’t consider them Democrats, I consider them netroots, and they’re different. And if I see that they vote in every election or most elections, I’ll be worried. But I’m not sure that they’re regular grown-up Democrats. I think that a lot of those people are troublemakers who love to sit in the backseat and complain. They’re not interested in governing this country. They never ran for office, they’re not interested in working for somebody in public office. They get their giggles from sitting in the backseat and bitching.

Watch it:

The biggest, weirdest tent ever. . .
Has the left departed on health reform? Dec. 17: Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post, joins Rachel Maddow to talk about the new liberal members of the de facto "kill the bill caucus" in Congress and offers analysis on whether delay means defeat for health reform.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Failing to Move the Overton Window

I have to say that I have no idea if what is left in the Senate HCR bill is worth voting for. If it is better at the margins than what we have now. But I have no doubt that the dems utterly failed at the macro-political optics of this, absolutely failed to frame the debate through a progressive lens to start. I have no doubt that Joe LIEberman has enjoyed shoving a wedge between the party and the base that gets them elected.

Below I offer a sampling of opinion that didn't help me figure this out, and probably won't help you understand it any better either.

But one thing I know with absolute clarity. As feckless as the Dems have been in all this, we are far better off as a nation with them in "control" than with repuglicans in control. If all the Dem energy in the 2010 elections has to be focused on preventing the crazies from taking control again, so be it. That is a worthy goal. Or else these guys take over again.

John Cole: Gotta Laugh

You have to love the fact that the entire “Climategate” argument from our right-wing bloggers is based completely on a British wingnut blogger citing Russian sources. Go check out memeorandum- it is like a Wingnut Who’s Who. Even Pam Atlas shows up.

And on the other side, you have thousands of scientists.

Ehh. We humans had a good run.

Marshall: JG's Lament

From TPM Reader JG ...

I've been getting really depressed lately about politics. I was at first depressed because the public option was dying, but now I'm much more depressed because of the anti-Obama frenzy I've been seeing coming from progressives.
I don't know if these progressives are not old enough or simply have chosen to forget the year 2000, but there was a sizable disenchantment on the left with the Democratic mainstream then as well. And it manifested itself as both lack of enthusiasm for Gore and a movement for Nader. The lesson is clear -- if you're not willing to settle for a moderate and fight for a Gore, then you will get eight years of a Bush. I hate to think who that Bush could be in the next cycle.

But, but, but, Obama is so disappointing! Sure. I get it. And we should let him know it. But withdrawing support from Obama? When he has to deal with birthers, and tea partiers, and beckites, and the assorted nuts du jour? It's bound to backfire. There is absolutely no
upside to vitriol against Obama, and there is so much downside. Think of how much better off this country would be if we had a centrist, semi-corporate-friendly Democratic president from 2000 to 2008. Not ideal by a long shot, sure. But we lost so much in those years.
Another Republican future scares me.

The myth of the equivalency of the parties, that it will be easier to make things better if we let them get worse -- these are the most dangerous ideas to us at this point. It's the biggest threat to my hope, at least.

Jon Stewart recaps how we got to this point.

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I think that you can make a very valid argument that the Democratic Party does suffer in comparison to the Republican Party it it’s ability (or will) to move the Overton Window in the desired direction. For example, Bush went out and pushed a wholesale privatization of Social Security, which resulted in a debate on SS “reform” that is still going on today. On the Democratic side, we have yet to have a serious debate on single payer health care reform, or an NHS-style plan. Which means that, if/when we go to push health care reform further, we will have to start all over again prepping the soil for the debate. Democratic leadership is just not willing to go out on a limb to push the debate left, while Republicans are eager to push the debate right and settle somewhere in the middle.
Robin G.

I’d like to say that I love love love the “Manic Progressive” tag. Love.

I think everyone will calm down pretty soon, more or less. It’s just so fucking infuriating to be knifed by Lieberman and not be able to do anything about it, at least at the moment. It harkens back to the old days of 2006, when all the establishment told the progressives that, oh, no, Lieberman’s gotta be supported! Stop all the Lamont foolishness! Good ol’ Joe’s one of us!

I’m angry about the mess HCR has become, but a lot of the bile I currently feel is old, festering bitterness and anger over the fact that we tried to get rid of Lieberman, failed (with no small help from the establishment), and look where we are now. That’s what makes me see red. I’m able to take a deep breath and see that a lot of my intrinsic emotional meltdown comes from that, but I think there’s a lot of progressives who’re at the same place, but don’t realize it yet, because they’re just too angry for self-reflection.

Give it time, and some alcohol, and I really do think people will start to sort themselves out. Not that the anger will stop, but it will be more sensibly directed, rather than blind emotional flailing.

Cesca: Messin' with Lieberman

BooMan has a great idea for dealing with Joe Lieberman.

Maybe we should find out how Lieberman likes to get to work and just go park our cars in the middle of those streets each morning. You know, just because we can.

I have a serious question here: From now on, do we have to support the exact opposite of what we want in order to fake out Joe Lieberman? I mean, I know he sounds like Elmer Fudd, but now we have to outsmart him as if we're in a Bugs Bunny cartoon?

US: Public option!
LIEBERMAN: No public option!
US: No public option!
LIEBERMAN: Public option!
US: Thank you! ZOOM!

DougJ: We have always been at war with the Republicans

John seems to be burned out from all craziness, so I’m going to continue with my rant against those who say that if Democrats were Republicans they would have rammed their health care bill through, the same way that legendary Senate leader Bill Frist rammed immigration reform, Social Security privatization, and drilling in ANWR through.

The reason I don’t like the myth of the omnipotent Republican majority is that it reminds me an awful lot of the myth of super-terrorist. Let’s face it: these unstoppable Republican political leaders of yore are cut from the same cloth as the America-hating geniuses who will bust out of that prison in Illinois and roam the country detonating suitcase nukes. And that cloth is paranoia about “the enemy”.

Did Bush ram his war resolution through the Senate? Sure, but our whole system is set up to make war seem appealing. We have “news” networks that get better ratings during wars, foreign policy think tanks that are funded by defense contractors, just war “philosophies” that (I recently learned) even liberal bloggers are not allowed to mock. And tax cuts have a similar array of wealthy interests, hacks for hire, and pseudointellectual whack-a-doodle behind them.

Health care reform has a similar array of forces opposing it. Even the great Bill Frist would have trouble getting something reasonable through, trust me.

None of this is to say that the health care bill we get won’t suck or that a better a health care bill wouldn’t be smart politics. In fairness to the Hamsheristas, they were right about Joe Lieberman, right about how things would go down in the Senate, right that a bill with a public option would be better, both politically and in terms of reforming the system.

But all this DEMS ARE TEH SHITTIEST PARTY EVAH stuff is crap. And to the extent that Democrats are a shitty party, it’s because they share Republicans’ fealty to corporate interests, not because they lack Republicans’ super-human ability to pass legislation.

John Cole: What I am Saying Is Not Controversial

Some weird reactions in the last post about not being able to go back to the drawing board with Health Care reform. I really don’t think that is a really controversial observation- where we are right now, clearly our options are some version of the bill in the Senate, or no bill at all.

Anyone who thinks the House and the Senate are going to just say “to hell with it” and start over from scratch is just smoking rock. How many months did it take for a bill to get out of Baucus’s committee alone. On top of that, we would be treated to another six-eight months of teabaggers throwing things at congressmen, wildly inflated claims on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and the op-ed pages of the Washington Post (although, in reality, those two things are pretty much one and the same these days), and so on. And then, you have to filter in that all of this would be happening in an election year, and with the notoriously timid Democrats, you have to be sniffing glue to think that the bill is going to be easier pass and more progressive. And then, assuming the House does manage to get it passed, does anyone think Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are going to suddenly decide the public option is a good idea? If so, why? Does anyone think that the blue dogs and “moderates” are going to become less of a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries?

And then we add the other things in to account. You think the progressive base is pissed now? Well, let’s remember, that HCR has effectively sucked the air out of EVERY other piece of legislation. You want another year dealing with HCR every night, while financial reform, jobs bills, gay rights, and numerous other things simply languish? Are you smoking rock? The administration is already getting flamed because they haven’t ended DOMA by fiat, you think another year of ignoring it trying to re-do HCR reform is going to make things better with the base?

And look, I’m fully aware that many of you say this bill sucks. I have no idea why there are not even any attempts to control the costs, which was one of the two main points of health care reform in the first place, wasn’t it? Control costs, expand coverage. We sorta do the second, but seem to have completely ignored the first. Premiums are still going to go up, only now the insurance companies get to increase premiums and you are required by law to pay them. Way to make generations of young Republicans.

I look at this bill and see very little to cheer about, and I read the blogs that are very in favor of this reform. If I were in the House or Senate, I have no idea how I would vote. I’d probably try to flee the country, but not before kneecapping Nelson, Conrad, Baucus, Lieberman, Landrieu, Lincoln, and whoever decided that 60 votes was required.

So what I am saying is not controversial. It is this bill, or nothing. Take your choice.

*** Update ***

Apparently Kevin Drum already made this point the other day, as others have, I am sure.

Atrios: Except For These Wee Differences...

I feel like those more supportive of this bill are attacking anti-mandate strawmen. The reason for thinking that without a public option or similar mandates are going to be a disaster is that without competition or sufficient affordability (due to not quite generous enough subsidies), you're forcing people to buy shitty insurance that they can't afford. Mandates aren't bad in and of themselves, but they're bad if they aren't part of a comprehensive plan which is... good!


Now, the reforms moving through Congress won't produce a system as comprehensive as what the Netherlands or Switzerland has. But that's not because of the individual mandate, which actually makes a lot of sense. (Read here if you want chapter and verse on that.) That's because the subsidies and regulation in these bills aren't as generous and strong as they could be.
In other words, you're forcing people to buy shitty insurance that they can't afford. Why would anyone possibly object to that?

Paul Krugman: Illusions and bitterness

There’s enormous disappointment among progressives about the emerging health care bill — and rightly so. That said, even as it stands it would take a big step toward greater security for Americans and greater social justice; it would also save many lives over the decade ahead. That’s why progressive health policy wonks — the people who have campaigned for health reform for years — are almost all in favor of voting for the thing.

The argument about the evil of the individual mandate is,as Jon Cohn says, all wrong. It was wrong during the primaries, when Obama unfortunately used it to demagogue his rivals — helping set the stage for problems now. And it’s still wrong.

And the truth is that health care reform was probably doomed to be deeply imperfect. As Ezra Klein pointed out a few weeks ago, we’re basically in a hostage situation: progressives really, really want to cover the uninsured, while centrists whose votes are needed can take it or leave it. So the centrists have a lot of power — which in the case of Joe Lieberman means the power to double-cross and indulge his pettiness.

Now, in a hostage situation there are times when you have to just say no — when giving in, by encouraging future hostage-takers, would be worse than letting the hostages perish. So the question has to be, is this one of those times? I don’t think so, given the history: as Kevin Drum points out, health reform has come back weaker after each defeat. I’d also point out that highly imperfect insurance reforms, like Social Security and Medicare in their initial incarnations, have gotten more comprehensive over time. This suggests that the priority is to get something passed.

But what’s happening, I think, goes beyond health care; what we’re seeing is disillusionment with Obama among some of the people who were his most enthusiastic supporters. A lot of people seem shocked to find that he’s not the transformative figure of their imaginations. Can I say I told you so? If you paid attention to what he said, not how he said it, it was obvious from the beginning — and I’m talking about 2007 — that he was going to be much less aggressive about change than one could have hoped. And this has done a lot of damage: I believe he could have taken a tougher line on economic policy and the banks, and was tearing my hair out over his caution early this year. I also believe that if he had been tougher on those issues, he’d be better able to weather disappointment over his health care compromises.

So there’s a lot of bitterness out there. But please, keep your priorities straight.

By all means denounce Obama for his failed bipartisan gestures. By all means criticize the administration. But don’t take it out on the tens of millions of Americans who will have health insurance if this bill passes, but will be out of luck — and, in some cases, dead — if it doesn’t.

Smooth Like Remy: Mad At The Wrong People/Person

I have been as mad as Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and the rest of the ConservaDems in the Senate as anybody else. And I have been as disappointed in the Obama administration and their glaring weakness on pushing health care reform as anybody else. But today was actually an "aha" moment for me. As many problems as I have with those people, I am not convinced that I should have reserved some of my ire for some other folks and perhaps THEY are the ones who should have been pressured all along.

Who am I talking about you ask?

The so called progressives in the Senate.

Here is the thing, Joe Lieberman et al forced Harry Reid's and President Obama's hand at least publicly by announcing they wouldn't support cloture on this health care reform bill at various times. Now this may have been what President Obama had wanted all along as some folks are saying, hell I don't know. But I do know this. If Jay Rockerfeller or Chuck Schumer or Sheldon Whitehouse or Sherrod Brown had the guts/balls/courage, take your pick, to make the same stance and draw a line in the sand over the public option and or the Medicare buy in then we wouldn't be in this mess.

It all came clear when I saw Rockerfeller on MSNBC today and Robert Gibbs feverishly going after Howard Dean for saying kill the bill. They don't have ONE FUCKING WORD to say about Joe Lieberman, but Governor Dean, hell he's the enemy. For all of the lip service they paid to the public option and the Medicare buy in, not one, not one single solitary one of them EVER even alluded to perhaps not voting for cloture if they weren't in.

Now ask yourself a question, why is that?

Its because they know that they don't have to take such a courageous stance and all they have to do is offer a few amendments and then come out of a meeting with that "we did all we could" bullshit and folks will buy it. I mean who could challenge Rockerfeller or Whitehouse or Brown on their progressive cred?

I could, that's who.

This has been a total load of bullshit from the start. And it should have dawned on me when the only member of the WHOLE Senate Democratic Caucus who pledged not to vote for the bill without a public option was, of all people, Roland Burris. That ladies and gentlemen tells you how this game was rigged from the start. It shows you that even though they exhorted us to call our Senators and lied over and over again about the likelihood of getting a public option in, that all along they were planning on falling back when push came to shove.

And then we wonder why Republicans basically call them pussies to their face and they do nothing more than take it.

Hey, Joe Lieberman is an asshole, but at least he is a strong one. With everybody fucking with him and even his wife he still gave everybody the middle finger and said he wouldn't vote for the bill. Where is OUR asshole? A progressive asshole who is just as stubborn?

So here we are, now the White House and so called progressives in the Senate are attacking Governor Dean for speaking truth to power. They are flogging that 30 million people covered number, even though

A. The CBO hasn't scored the new bill. and

B. The CBO's earlier projection was based on people being mandated to buy coverage, not on their ability to pay for such coverage.

Basically the so called progressives are now coming out telling us all tho shut the fuck up. Well sorry, I ain't built that way.

So here is what happens now. For me waiting for midterm elections is too long. Here is what I plan on doing poste haste. The next emails I get from OFA and will be replied to with a "Remove me" email explaining that I will no longer be helping them in any way shape or form and health care reform is the reason. I will also refuse any email from the so called progressives in the Senate asking me to send money, phone bank, or organize and I will also let them know why. Basically I am cutting off anything associated with a so called progressive in the Senate and the White House until further notice.

I am also going to make sure to blog about the actual CBO score that should be out any day now and note how the numbers are invariably worse than the version with the public option in it. Because I can make a prediction right here and now, the Senate Dems are in such a rush to pass this shitty bill now that they won't even want to make any announcements about the new score because they KNOW it will be worse.

Now I am not jumping all the way off the ship, but I can tell you this much. Aside from taking potshots at Republicans which is basically my pleasure, I am not busting my ass for these assholes anymore. They feel like they don't need progressives. They think they can win elections with out us. They think they can sell us out at every turn and we will still stick by them.

They are wrong.
Aravosis: Keith Olbermann eviscerates Obama, Reid & US Senate over health care reform fiasco

The text below is only an excerpt of Keith Olbermann's Special Comment last night about the fiasco known as health care reform. You can read Keith's entire comment here.

The last year has been hard for a lot of us. Joe and I, like many of you, busted our butts to get a Democratic Congress in 2006. Via this blog, we raised over $100,000 to help the Democrats in that year alone. We were there as well in 2008 for the presidentials. At the risk of alienating a good chunk of our readership, we came out swinging for President Obama early in the primaries. With the help of many of you, we raised $43,000 for candidate Obama, and were proud to do so. For that reason, it didn't give us any pleasure having to take the White House, our White House, on through much of this year. On issue after issue we cared about, our President was on the wrong side of his own campaign promises. When the moment called for courage, for backbone, and for action, our White House was AWOL time and time again. And our leadership in Congress, especially in the Senate, wasn't far behind.

The only silver lining I can give our readers, after what has been an incredibly dispiriting year, is that for those of you, who like us, helped put this President and this Congress into office, and who have been wondering if your growing concerns about our party have been warranted, Keith Olbermann's Special Comment is about a clear a sign as you could ask for that you were not wrong, that you are not alone.

Here's an excerpt:

Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest version of H-R 35-90, the Senate Health Care Reform bill. To again quote Churchill after Munich, as I did six nights ago on this program: "I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, without a war."...

[S]adly, the President has not provided the leadership his office demands.

He has badly misjudged the country's mood at all ends of the spectrum. There is no middle to coalesce here, Sir. There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.

Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.

Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature "bipartisanship," you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both. You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party. Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out....

Mr. President, they are calling you a socialist, a communist, a Marxist. You could be further to the right than Reagan - and this health care bill, as Howard Dean put it here last night, this bailout for the insurance industry, sure invites the comparison. And they will still call you names.

Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just. The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises. The firestorm will be the same. So why not give the haters, as the cliché goes, something to cry about.
C&L: Blue Cross of California: If You're Late One Payment, We'll Drop You

As I think I've pointed out before, most of the Blues are considered to be "non-profit" in order to get certain privileges. But they are usually just parent companies for dozens of for-profit subsidiaries - with whom they contract over-priced services to earn nice, hefty profits.

We can expect more abuses (and more price inflation) if the insurance exchange makes the same mistake and treats them as actual non-profits:

One of the worst abuses of the private insurance industry is known as recission, where insurers decide to revoke the coverage of their customers for frivolous reasons. The Los Angeles Times reports today that one of the nation’s largest insurers, Blue Cross of California, has “notified [its] policyholders” that their coverage could be “immediately dropped” if they miss even a single payment:

Amid a national debate on how to make the healthcare system friendlier and more accessible, and as millions of people grapple with the loss of jobs and homes, what does insurance heavyweight Blue Shield of California do? It decides to take a key benefit away.

The company has notified individual policyholders that their coverage could be immediately dropped if they miss a single payment — or so it seems. Blue Shield says in a letter to customers that they can reapply for insurance, but with potentially higher premiums and stricter conditions.

Thankfully, a California law that mandates minimum grace periods and a decision by the company that will allow for a 28-day grace period will keep Blue Cross from immediately dropping people from coverage, as their letter threatens. The LA Times goes on to note that the the company’s pronouncement comes “after last year’s announcement that Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross agreed to pay a total of $13 million in fines after cancelling the policies of more than 2,000 Californians after they became ill.”

Sigh . . .

Fascinating report . . .
Health reform opponents resort to digital dirty tricks Dec 16: Rachel Maddow talks to Chris Hayes, Washington editor for The Nation, about the latest online astroturfing strategies to build the illusion of greater opposition to health care reform.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Daily Dish: Fomenting Fear And Loathing

by Chris Bodenner

Above is an appalling act of exploitation. Sean Hannity assembles a group of 9/11 victims - understandably roiled by grief and frustration - and frames the segment around the "betrayal" of Obama putting terrorist suspects on trial in New York. The exploitation is not so much of the family members themselves, who would harbor the same feelings and opinions regardless of Hannity's forum. Rather, Hannity is exploiting the empathy that millions of viewers hold for those victims. By stoking their sadness, and providing no counterbalance from grieving victims with alternate views, Hannity creates pure propaganda. And he channels that raw, seething emotion not just toward a particular policy decision, but a personalized individual - Barack Obama - who also happens to be the nation's leader in a time of war.

Here's an excerpt from the clip if you don't want to watch it all:

“It may be pushing the envelope a little bit,” Gadiel added, “but I, I wonder, you know, The Constitution has provisions for people who provide aid and comfort for the enemy and I just – there’s no exemption for high officials, including the president and the attorney general. I just wonder when, when it will be that people would, will decide or will there be people around who will be willing to point fingers if he crosses the line and when does he cross the line?”

So how did “patriotic” Hannity react to his guest calling, essentially, for our president to be arrested for treason? By encouraging the rest of his audience to agree. “Let me ask for a show of hands once again. How many of you – show of hands (Hannity raised his own hand as a blatant cue for others to do so, too) – high, if you can. How many of you agree with what Peter just said?”

Almost the entire studio audience raised their hands.

Daily Dish: Fomenting Fear And Loathing, Ctd

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

Your post fairly admonished Hannity for exploiting grief to create propaganda, but fails to recognize why his piece is propaganda. It is so not because Hannity fails "provide counterbalance from grieving victims with alternate views," but because his argument is intellectually dishonest: rationally, he is wrong (in saying that justice is "providing aid and comfort to an enemy"), but he avoids rationality by exploiting his viewer's empathy & guilt. Doing such is the creation of propaganda; his piece would still be malicious dishonesty even if he rustled up an opposing viewpoint. Indeed, strategy often employed by him and others of his mold (and increasingly by real journalists) is the use of differing opinions to legitimize drivel. Fox seems to be built on that 'Fair & Balanced' idea.

Another writes:

Has the public already forgotten how Sean Hannity marched at the head of the parade to destroy the career of the Dixie Chicks for daring to criticize a president during a time of war? What Natalie Maines said about Bush was mild compared to Hannity's disgraceful exploitation of 9/11 victims to foment hatred against Obama.

Marshall (TPM): FRC "Prayercast"

The Family Research Council held a "prayercast" tonight to pray for God's intercession to stop the health care reform bill in the senate. We made Eric Kleefeld watch.

We'll have a full review tomorrow.

Rachel profiles the prayercast crowd . . .

GOP unrestrained in health reform opposition Dec 16: Rachel Maddow is joined by Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist, to talk about whether the GOP's jihad against health reform will ultimately accelerate their political dissolution.

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Marshall (TPM): No Fight

TPM Reader SD on why he thinks so many people are pissed ...

I think people are pissed right now less at the fact that they didn't get what they wanted, and more at the fact that they feel like their people didn't really fight for it. Leaders don't always get what they want. But people recognize when true leaders at least give it a shot. And people judge that leadership by what they say in public and how hard they see them publicly pushing for it. Closed door negotiations don't count.
They wanted to see Obama push the public option and say that it was crucial, important part. His broad outlines of "cuts the deficit, improves coverage" is too bland and not something people can rally around, and he gives the impression that he's ceding power and leadership to a less capable bunch in the legislative branch.

They wanted to see news stories about how "staffers close to the majority leader" say that chaimanships and other perks were on the line for any Democrat who talked about filibustering this crucial bill.

They wanted to see congressional leadership and the president campaign hard for an "up or down vote on healthcare" the way the Republicans did so effectively for the judge appointments.

But none of that happened, and the things that people care about died with a whimper.

I know there's been a lot of game theory from people about how that would never work, etc. But the fact is that you can show leadership for big ideas and there's always still room to compromise at the end. At least then it would be clear that there was no other way, that you put up the good fight, better luck next time.

Instead they feel like the people they voted for and trusted to lead them failed. And it's hard to imagine making that same emotional commitment again in the future. Self defeating, yes. Temporary, maybe. But we're talking primal stuff here - people don't like wimps, not matter what party.

Sargent: Rockefeller Rips Dean: “Nonsense … Irresponsible … Stunning … Wrong”

Wow, this is really something. Senator Jay Rockefeller, who recently emerged as something of a public option hero on the left, just tore into Howard Dean on MSNBC, ripping Dean’s call on Dems to kill the Senate bill as “nonsense,” and demanding that the left stop “sulking” and start acting like “grownups.”

Asked by Andrea Mitchell about Dean’s opposition, Rockefeller said: “It’s nonsense. And it’s irrepsonsible. And coming from him as a physician, it’s stunning. And he’s wrong. Does that answer your question?”

Pressed by Mitchell to defend the bill despite the jetissoning of core liberal priorities, Rockefeller cited the 85% of insurance company revenues to be spent be spent on health care, the closing of much of the Medicare “donut hole,” and the mandate coverage for 31 million people, among other things.

Then Rockefeller really got started.

“Am I angry that the public option appears to have been dropped? Of course I’m angry about that,” he said. “Was I for the Medicare buy-in? Of course I was…So what do I do? Do I take my football and run home and sulk?”

Rockefeller still wasn’t finished. “I’m a grownup, you’re a grownup,” he said. “We’ve been around this business for a long time. And you never get everything you want. You don’t sulk about it. You try to keep improving the bill.”

Strong stuff! The substance of his dispute with Dean aside, it’s interesting to note that Rockefeller would be far less likely to offer such a stern dressing down to, say, Joe Lieberman, whose views on health care likely rankle Rockefeller far more than Dean’s do.

But then again, Lieberman has been allowed to effectively hijack this process, which means he’s holding a gun to the head of reform. Dean, meanwhile, is just some silly lefty ranting on the sidelines, so there’s no downside to venting in his direction.

C&L: Howard Dean to Mary Landrieu: You Forced Us Into the Insurance Industry

At the end of separate interviews on Hardball, Chris Matthews gives Howard Dean a chance to respond to Mary Landrieu's statements and he comes at her hard for forcing everyone into private insurance by not allowing other choices in the bill. I'd call that a smack down for sure.

John Amato:

Sen. Landrieu drones on and on about her blind love and devotion to the insurance industry that has been a nightmare for many Americans. Why does she hate the idea that Americans deserve to have a choice about who they buy their health care from?

Dean: Mary, I'd like to know why you deny my people of the choice to sign up for an alternative? You are forcing us in to insurance companies. You took away our choice.

You would not let us choose another program. You forced us into the insurance industry and we don't want to be forced into the insurance industry and you took away our choice. That is wrong.

Landrieu: That is not true. You never had that choice to begin with.

Dean: The president campaigned on it, Mary...

Landrieu: No, he didn't. He did not campaign for a public option.

Dean: ...He most certainly did. He absolutely did, you are not accurate. He campaigned for a federal employee benefit with a public option. That's what he campaigned for.

Landrieu obviously never bothered to read the health care bill that President Obama ran on in the general election.