Weekly Pulse: Obama Signs Health Reform Bill, Backlash Begins

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Yesterday, President Obama signed health care reform into law. As Mike Lillis explains in the Washington Independent, the bill now proceeds to the Senate for reconciliation. The whole process could be complete by the end of the week. Republicans and their allies have already moved to challenge reform in court.

Legal challenges

The fight is far from over, however. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that Republicans have already filed papers to challenge health care reform in court. The Justice Department has pledged to vigorously defend health care reform, according to Zach Roth of TPM Muckraker.

The legal arguments against health care reform center around the constitutionality of an individual mandate, i.e., the requirement that everyone must carry health insurance. This argument is specious. The bill characterizes the mandatory payments as a tax, and imposes a fine for those who don’t pay their insurance tax. There is no question that Congress has the authority to levy taxes in support of the general welfare and providing health insurance to the people easily meets that legal criterion.

Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent reviews some of the other formidable legal barriers to challenging health care reform in court. But take heart, teabaggers! Birther-dentist-lawyer Orly Taitz is on the case.

Violent outbursts from reform opponents

Some anti-reform activists have resorted to intimidation.  Five Democratic offices were vandalized in the days surrounding the House vote, as Justin Elliott reports for TPM Muckraker. Someone hurled a brick through the window of the Niagara office of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the chair of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Slaughter is notorious on the right for drawing up the controversial “deem and pass” strategy for moving the bill forward. Her plan was never put into action, but she has become a target anyway. Another Democratic office in Slaughter’s district was damaged by a brick bearing a quote from conservative icon Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”

Elliott notes that a conservative blogger in Alabama is doing his best to incite similar attacks, though it’s not clear whether he instigated any of the original five:

…Blogger Mike Vanderboegh has been tracking the breaking of windows at Dem offices after issuing a call Friday: “To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.

Reproductive rights take a hit

Anti-abortion extremist Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) failed to get his ultra-restrictive abortion language inserted into the health care bill, but the final bill does impede health insurance coverage for abortion.

For example, those who choose abortion coverage will have to write two checks: One for their regular premium and one for a dollar to go into a separate abortion coverage fund. Many analysts fear that the extra hassles will discourage private insurers from covering abortion at all.  Pro-choice activists were in a weaker negotiating position because, unlike Stupak and his allies, they weren’t prepared to kill health reform if their demands weren’t met.

The greater good?

Now that health care reform is safely signed into law, the pro-choice movement is stepping back and asking itself some tough questions.

In The Nation, Katha Pollitt argues that the pro-choice movement deserves to be rewarded for sacrificing its own agenda for the greater good. She suggests that the Democrats could reward the reproductive rights movement by fully funding the Violence Against Women Act, addressing maternal mortality and other policy changes to advance women’s health and freedom.

Jos of Feministing counters that with their go along to get along attitude pro-choice groups have only demonstrated that they can be ignored with impunity: “You don’t get rewarded for demonstrating a lack of political power, you get further marginalized.”

At RH Reality Check, Megan Carpentier argues that national pro-choice organization like NARAL and Planned Parenthood ceded their leverage too easily. While anti-choicers were beefing up their lobbying presence in Washington, major pro-choice groups were scaling back. Pro-choice groups compromised early and easily, perhaps because they were overly confident that their service to the Democratic cause would be rewarded in the end.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Good Riddance to “Deem and Pass”

Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership are abandoning the "deem and pass" route on health insurance reform and will hold separate votes on the Senate's insurance bill and the House's reconciliation fixes, The Hill reports. This is a good thing, for at least three reasons that I can see.

First and perhaps most importantly, deem and pass would have ticked off an already angry public. The current Real Clear Politics average on health care polling is 40.4% in favor and 49.1% against. And yet as we all know, polls on the ideas contained within the bill that don't actually mention the bill show support for such measures. The reason, the CW goes and I think, that so many people oppose they would like if they studied it isn’t about policy but about politics. Voters are ticked at the process – the fact that Republicans frequently used both budget reconciliation and "deem and pass" when in power bedamned. According to a poorly worded and biased question in a recent Fox "News" poll, "about a third of voters (31 percent) think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are 'playing by the rules' to get health care through, while 53 percent think they are 'changing the rules.'" That clearly isn’t true, but perception matters, and using "deem and pass" could have caused irreparable harm to Democratic perception.

Why are voters all of a sudden so angry about age-old procedural measures? Because they didn't know about them before. We live in a new and different media age with unprecedented access to political minutia - but that's another issue entirely.

Second, and this should be fairly obvious: If a bill, even one I desperately support that would help the nation for decades to come, doesn’t have the votes to pass, then it should not pass. That wouldn’t just be undemocratic, it would be anti-democratic. Voters know this, and thankfully the House leadership listened. Besides, deem and pass probably would have HARMED the bill’s chances of passing. Vegas oddsmakers give the reforms a 70% chance of passing on their own, but several Members, including Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA), said they couldn’t go along with the procedural gimmick on a bill they otherwise support – and if I were in Congress, I’d likely side with them myself. So ditching deem and pass helps both democracy AND the bill.

Finally, a controversial, high profile bill made law through “deem and pass” would be subject to legal concerns. They might not be well-founded and could well lose every single Court challenge, but that’s no guarantee. Holding a regular vote, if nothing else, will help the bill avoid such challenges and go into effect earlier.

So hello health insurance and good riddance deem and pass.

Weekly Pulse: Pelosi Makes Her Move; Republican Rep. Calls for Coup

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has laid out a strategy to pass health care reform in the next couple of days by allowing the House to vote on the details of the reconciliation package instead of the Senate bill itself. As usual, progressives are fretting that winning will make them look bad. On the other hand, conservatives are baying for blood and calling for revolution.

‘Deem and pass’

Nick Baumann of Mother Jones discusses the parliamentary tactic known as “deem and pass” (D&P), which House Democrats plan to use to avoid voting for the Senate bill before the Senate fixes the bill through reconciliation. The House doesn’t want to sign a blank check. If the health care bill passes the House first, there’s no guarantee that the Senate will make the fixes as promised.

Originally, the hope was that the Senate could do reconciliation first. The problem is that you can’t pass a bill to amend a bill that isn’t law yet. That would be like putting the cart before the horse. To clear that hurdle, the House will invoke a rule that deems that Senate bill to have passed if and when the House passes the reconciliation package.  It’s sort of like backdating a check. Ryan Grim explains the process in more detail on Democracy Now!

D&P does not equal treason

Progressives like Kevin Drum worry that D&P will make the Democrats look bad. Meanwhile, the Tea Party crowd is calling for Nancy Pelosi to be tried for treason, as TPM reports. The bottom line is that D&P is no big deal. Republicans used the process 36 times in 2005 and 2006; Democrats used it 49 times in 2007 and 2008. D&P is constitutional. We know because it has already been upheld by the Supreme Court. Kevin Drum writes, “If you have a life, you don’t care about the subject of this post and have never heard of it.”

Teabag revolution

There is no joy in Tea Party Land, as Dave Weigel reports in the Washington Independent. The tea baggers are frantically lobbying to stop the bill, but the reality is starting to sink in. Their leaders are shifting from trying to kill the bill to planning the tantrum they’re going to throw when it passes:

While many held out hope that plans to pass the Senate’s version of reform in the House would stall out, others pondered their next steps. Some, like Rep. Steve King (R-IA), took a dark view of what might come.

“Right now, they’re civil, because they think they have a chance of stopping this bill,” said King to reporters, waving his arm at a pack of “People’s Surge” activists forming a line to enter the Cannon House Office Building. “The reason we don’t have violence in this country like they do in dictatorships is because we have votes, and our leaders listen to their constituents. Now we’re in a situation where the leaders are defying the people!” Later, King would expand on those remarks and speculate on a possible anti-Washington revolt in which Tea Parties would “fill the streets” of the capital.

Sounds like King is calling for a revolution, doesn’t it? As it turns out, that’s exactly what he says he wants if health care reform passes. Eric Kleefeld of TPMDC reports that King is hoping for something akin to the uprising that overthrew the Communists in Prague in 1989. “Fill this city up, fill this city, jam this place full so that they can’t get in, they can’t get out and they will have to capitulate to the will of the American people,” King said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

Women and health care reform

Health care reform seems poised to pass. Amid the heady excitement, there’s a sense of gloom in the reproductive rights community. Bart Stupak was defeated, but health care reform will probably end private insurance coverage for abortion.

In The American Prospect, Michelle Goldberg urges feminists to support reform anyway. She argues that the women suffer disproportionately under the status quo. If reform passes, it will insure 17 million previously uninsured women. Expanding health care coverage might help reverse rising maternal mortality rates in the United States.

A recent report by Amnesty International found that at least two women die in childbirth every day in the U.S., a much higher rate than most developed countries. The anti-choicers had the advantage because they were willing to kill health reform over abortion. The pro-choice faction did not allow itself the luxury of nihilism.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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