November 21, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Senate votes on health care
Just like the House of Representatives did two weeks ago, the U.S. Senate is going to vote on the health care bill on a Saturday night when most Americans are out at the movies or something. Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks he has enough votes in the Senate to pass health care, after having promised Sen. Mary Landrieu $100 million to help rebuild her home state of Lousiana. (Hurricane Katrina keeps coming back to haunt the GOP.) This is just a procedural vote to allow debate to begin, but there seems little doubt that the Democrats intend to exploit their "window of opportunity" and rush it through before the American public realizes what just happened.
UPDATE: Just after 8:00 P.M., as scheduled, the Senate voted on the motion, and it passed, as expected, by a margin of 60-39. Now it remains to be seen if the moderate Democrats in the Senate (Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman) will use the debate to truly scrutinize the measure, or just rush it through while no one is looking...
As for the murky details, yesterday's Washington Post outlined the devlish details and what it took to get to the crucial 60th vote, needed to stop a filibuster. What it doesn't tell you, however, is that the "$848 billion measure" would actually cost $2.5 billion over a ten-year period, after the whole thing goes into effect. (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained that very clearly on the Senate floor just a few minutes ago.) There would be a transition period for the first four years, during which time benefits would be negligible, and after that it balloons out of control. God help us all.
On his Facebook page, Brandon Bell (former Virginia state senator) pointed out the accounting gimmickery that allows the Democrats to claim that the health care program will be affordable: States will be forced to pay one half of the total program from their own resources, even though many states now are either in very tight financial straits, or else flat broke. Here is my response to Brandon:
Unfunded mandates, why didn't I think of that?! This must be what Obama means when he insists that his health care reform will be "deficit neutral." I wonder how many other sneaky budgetary tricks are in there?
It appears all but certain that both Virginia senators will vote in favor of the bill. Three years ago, both Virginia senators were Republicans, and now they are both Democrats. Why? In a nutshell, you can explain the shift with just two words: macaca (the gaffe which undid George Allen's Senate career) and RINO (the disgusting, counterproductive epithet which led John Warner to call it quits in 2008). His replacement, Sen. Mark Warner, touts his business experience and sensitivity to the needs of small businesses. I have marked up the edited text of his speech on the Senate floor as shown on his Web site to show what he actually said, as you can hear for yourself on the video clip. In Warner's words,
The only people who pay retail -- who pay full price for their health care benefits in America today -- are small businesses and those [folks] who purchase health care on the individual-based market. [So,] There is no group that [is going to be more]
willbenefit [and that will] more from, orhave more to gain from, more meaningful health care reform [if we do it right] than small businesses.
Here is my message to Senator Warner, submitted on his constituent feedback Web page form, in which I call attention to a telling omission in the transcript of his speech:
Sen. Warner: The quoted text on your Web page omitted five key words from your speech on the Senate floor: "if we do it right." The Senate health care bill, however, is doing it WRONG. It purports to cut the federal deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, mostly by forcing state governments to pony up half of the cost. Virginia's state government is already in crisis mode, and our people cannot afford to pay more taxes to fund the proposed bureaucratic nightmare. As a former governor of our commonwealth, you of all people should know better. Furthermore, there is NO constitutional authority for Congress to mandate individual participation in such a program. Your speech showed awareness of the plight faced by small businesses, but you just don't seem to grasp the fundamental reasons why health care costs are spiralling out of control. We do NOT need more insurance coverage or more government entitlements that would only make things worse, we need more freedom, thrift, and individual responsibility. Choice and real competition will bring costs and quality into balance. I urge you to vote NO on the health care bill, and to work with other moderates to come up with an alternative that is faithful to our country's values and our Constitution.
I also gave Senator Warner's office a call, at 1-877-676-2759, for Virginia residents only. Finally, I also submitted a message to Virginia's senior senator:
Sen. Webb: I was searching your Web site, and could not find any press releases by you this year concerning the vital issue of health care reform. I have studied the House bill (HR 3962) in some detail, and from a quick glance, the Senate bill seems very similar. From my perspective as a political scientist and former economist, I have grave doubts about mandating universal insurance coverage and expanding federal entitlements. If you want to make health care more accessible to poor people, fine, but please don't make our already bad health care system even worse. I urge you to vote NO on the proposed Senate bill, and to work with other moderates in crafting a compromise that will uphold freedom and individual responsibility.
While the Senate proceeds to impose an enormous new burden on the citizens without any thought of whether such a power is granted by the U.S. Constitution, it might be a good idea to "go back to basics." This video on the difference between republics and other forms of government is so good, I think I'll use it in my class: wimp.com.