Monday, December 21, 2009

Senate Health Care Bill Clears Hurdle, Progressive Opposition Grows

Early this morning the Senate voted to end the period of filibuster on the health care legislation by a vote of 60-40. Not surprisingly, the vote broke down along party lines with all the Senators who caucus with Democrats voting to end the filibuster. This is a big step in moving this legislation forward as Democrats and the White House are pressing for a final vote before Christmas.

It is no secret that this legislation has devolved into a complete mess. Republicans are still against any kind of reform, Moderate Democrats have worked to strip the bill of the public option and Medicare buy-in, and Progressive activists are now split on whether to support or kill the Senate version of the bill.

While there is still some good discussion on the pros and cons of the legislation there are some revealing moments that show just how ugly this debate has become. Take this item from last night when the ailing Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) was wheeled into the Chamber to vote at 1am. Byrd's presence was not necessarily required for his vote to count, but the Republicans insisted that he travel to the Chamber to cast his vote in person.

Before Byrd arrived for the vote, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) took to the Senate floor and indicated that Americans "pray that someone can't make the vote tonight". Watch:

Ezra Klein reacts to this incident:

The Senate hasn't just lost a bit of its collegiality. It's become heartlessly ferocious -- a place where the death of an honored friend presents an opportunity to kill his legislation, and in which the infirmity of an ailing colleague is seen as a potential path to procedural victory.

While Republicans continue to oppose any type of health care reform, Progressives are also divided after Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) successful attempt to strip out the Medicare buy-in and the public option from the Senate legislation. Howard Dean has been very vocal in his calls to "kill the bill" and other progressives are also also advocating that health care talks turn to reconciliation in order to save robust reforms to the system.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake has been working very hard on the issue of reform for many months now and has compiled a "Top 10" list of reasons why progressives should oppose the Senate Bill. Here they are:

Top 10 Reasons to Kill Senate Health Care Bill

1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not.
2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS.
3. Many will be forced to buy poor-quality insurance they can’t afford to use, with $11,900 in annual out-of-pocket expenses over and above their annual premiums.
4. Massive restriction on a woman’s right to choose, designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.
6. Many of the taxes to pay for the bill start now, but most Americans won’t see any benefits — like an end to discrimination against those with preexisting conditions — until 2014 when the program begins.
7. Allows insurance companies to charge people who are older 300% more than others.
8. Grants monopolies to drug companies that will keep generic versions of expensive biotech drugs from ever coming to market.
9. No re-importation of prescription drugs, which would save consumers $100 billion over 10 years.
10. The cost of medical care will continue to rise, and insurance premiums for a family of four will rise an average of $1,000 a year — meaning in 10 years, your family’s insurance premium will be $10,000 more annually than it is right now.

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