Archive for the 'Congress' Category

BaucusCare Criticisms

Today, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) pulled back the curtains on Baucus-care, the definitive Gang of Six Finance Committee health care opus magnum we’ve been hearing so much about.

For his trouble, Baucus has been teared into by just about everyone. Progressives hate it, chiefly because it scrapped the public option, and even the trigger compromise, in favor of non-profit private health insurance cooperatives. Conservatives hate it because it costs a bunch, doesn’t do much to make insurance more affordable for those who already have it, includes an individual mandate that carries a hefty (up to $3,800 a year for a household) fine, and cuts nearly $500 billion from Medicare¹.

Though the plan was released today, The New York Times already assembled a bunch of really smart people to dissect it.

Here’s some snippets of the more interesting critiques.

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American Politics in 50 Words or Less

And given the contrast between ironclad discipline on the GOP side and the “anything goes” attitude on the Democratic side, it looks like for a while yet we may be in a California-style dynamic where Republicans can’t win elections but Democrats can’t actually pass a governing agenda.

Matthew Iglesias, ThinkProgress.org

A perfect description of why a big tent supermajority isn’t really a supermajority at all.

What Health Care Debate?

Economist CoverNate Silver has a post up at FiveThirtyEight grading the Democrats efforts to learn from the mistakes of Clinton-care in selling a health plan. Spoiler alert: he gives out a lot of Fs.

Here’s the CliffsNotes of the CliffsNotes version (emphasis his):

Until the Democrats have a plan, they are unlikely to gain ground with the public on health care reform.

If some iteration of health care reform doesn’t pass in 2009, that will be the reason why. Because while it wasn’t unexpected to see a number of competing versions floating around the House and Senate — there is, after all, the bipartisan crowd to appeal to, not to mention moderate Democrats — you’d think that by now we’d have a front-runner of sorts, in the form of either a bill or at least a consensus on major elements.

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Health Care Reform and the Great Reconciliation Hoax

We’ve learned two things over the past few weeks, as health care proposals have flitted their way through House and Senate committees.

First, the powers that be — Congressional Dems, not necessarily the president — don’t have a whole lot of good ideas for either cost-cutting or revenue-raising to make this whole thing work.

Second, barring new developments, those not-so-good ideas aren’t going to have an easy time finding votes, filibuster-proof majority be damned.

There are any number of reasons for why this is. Counting moderate Democrats squeamish about government-run health care and the questionable health of Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, the supermajority party could run close to ten votes shy of the 60 needed to squelch a filibuster. Realistically, many of those moderate Dems would probably toe the party line when push came to shove. But Arlen Specter would still be a big question mark, and the Kennedy/Byrd votes are, of course, not a given.

This leaves Democrats with a few options. One is to head back to the drawing board and get those nasty CBO numbers under wraps so as to appeal to moderates. Another is to sign on to one of any number of the bi-partisan alternatives floating around. And another, theoretically, is to utilize the reconciliation rule.

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Ron Paul on Iran

Agree with his politics or not, you have to admire Ron Paul.

From the transcript of a speech he gave on the House floor, debating the recent resolution to offer support for Iranian protesters:

While I never condone violence, much less the violence that governments are only too willing to mete out to their own citizens, I am always very cautious about “condemning” the actions of governments overseas. As an elected member of the United States House of Representatives, I have always questioned our constitutional authority to sit in judgment of the actions of foreign governments of which we are not representatives.

The reality is, the isolationist Constitution to which Rep. Paul adheres just isn’t practical in the present age. Still, you have to respect the guy for sticking to his principles when the politically and, well, morally convenient thing to do would be to go along with the resolution.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) is a Meme

Yes, he is.

The series of tubes' response to Hoekstra's tweet, "Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House."

The series of tubes' response to Hoekstra's tweet, "Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House."

Earmarks, Stimuli and State Funding

(Ed: This is the final post in a 3-part series on earmarks. Here are Parts I and II.)

One thing I absolutely wanted to avoid in writing these last few posts was contributing more useless drivel to the “earmarks are wasteful”/”they’re not that wasteful” stalemate.

To the first: yes, they are. To the second: no, they’re not. A thing can be wasteful (read: inefficient) without being all that costly (read: wasteful).

And what earmarks are endemic of is a system that is very inefficient at distributing cash.

Sure, at its best, pork can provide a fleet of buses, school computers, or a new power plant. But at its worst, it uses money better spent elsewhere.

Take the stimulus earmarks Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is belaboring. Give the state of Wisconsin the $840,000 its senator or representative secured for it, and I’ll bet you the money doesn’t go to a low-traffic bridge. Give the state of Pennsylvania $800,000, and John Murtha Airport, based in booming 23,000-strong Johnstown likely doesn’t see a penny. Not because the bridge workers or the airport wouldn’t use or need the money. But because the state has more pressing needs, albeit ones that might not have fit under the stimulus’ umbrella of infrastructure, from which the legislators were so desperately trying to squeeze money.

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About the Author

Brian Eason is a University of Missouri graduate with bachelor degrees in Journalism and Political Science. He has covered Congressional elections and local government for the Columbia Missourian and worked as a general assignment reporter for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, IL. Brian has also had articles published in Roll Call.