Tuesday 10 November 2009


"The thing to worry about the House health reform bill isn't what the Senate will add but what it will take away.
The Public Option. House speaker Nancy Pelosi tried and failed to round up sufficient votes to create a robust public-option government health insurance program that would link its doctor and hospital fees to Medicare rates. But within the Democratic caucus solicitude toward private health insurers outweighed fiscal conservatism, and Pelosi had to settle for a somewhat anemic public option (the preferred jargon is "level playing field") that would have to be self-sustaining and negotiate rates independent of Medicare."

Slate: Watch it Shrink, November 9, 2009
Just for future reference, and because I heard this claim several times in the Austrian news when they covered this: Actually, it only takes a majority of 50 in the Senate, which has 100 seats. The Vice President is technically the President of the Senate, and can cast a vote to break a deadlock over an issue. The Democrats currently have a majority of 58 Senators and there are two independent Senators who "caucus" with the Democrats (Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont).
A majority of 60 is filibuster-proof (because it takes 60 Senators to vote cloture on a bill) - but Joe Lieberman, currently the chair-man of the National Security Committee, has indicated that he would support a Republican filibuster, although other conservative Democrats have hesitated to follow suit (for fear of having to run against liberal candidates in Democratic Primaries).
A filibuster can be avoided through reconciliation: this only takes 51 Senators, and it is much more usual to vote with the party and not against it on procedural measures (Reconciliation is a legislative process that limits debate and amendmends to a bill, and a filibuster) - this can force a vote on a bill, but does not require Conservative Democrats to vote with their party.
Also and interesting point: Austrian news assumed that Obama would fail as a President if he fails to pass health care reform.
It is probably also important to mention that the bill passed the House with one Republican vote, and 39 Democrats opposing.

NY Times: Sweeping Health Care Plan Passes House, November 7, 2009
DerStandard: Abgeordnetenhaus stimmt für Reform, 8. November 2009
Die Zeit: Ein teuer erkaufter Sieg, 9. November 2009

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