Posts Tagged ‘filibuster’

Student Loan Legislation May Be Attached to Healthcare Reform

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Adding student loan bill to healthcare reform legislation could hand President Obama two major domestic victories.  Senate Democrats may tack an overhaul of the student loan program onto the healthcare reform bill, potentially handing President Barack Obama with a double victory on two of his top domestic priorities.  According to Senator Dick Durbin, Majority Whip (D-IL), “There was a stronger feeling for including” the education proposal, although he admitted that a final decision has not yet been made.  The proposal would shift subsidies that currently support private lenders to other student assistance programs, including Pell Grants for families who struggle to pay college tuition.  “Some of the things accomplished here are really going to help a lot of people across American” Durbin said.

The leadership in both the House of Representatives and the Senate seemed to be on the verge of attaching the student loan bill to a package of fixes to the healthcare legislation.  House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA), who is a proponent of combining the two measures, said “Senators have a simple choice here.  They can either choose to continue sending tens of billions of wasteful subsidies to lenders, or they can invest that money directly in students and families.  It’s critical.  People have made it very clear that they want to take this home.”

The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate healthcare bill will cost $875 billion over 10 years and cut the deficit by $118 billion.  President Obama’s proposal, which contains negotiated provisions from the House bill, could add an additional $100 billion to the ultimate cost.  The Senate’s parliamentarian has ruled that combining the bills will work, assuming legislators reach the right balance on the final price tag.

Baby Steps to Healthcare Reform

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Congressman suggests an incremental approach to passing healthcare reform legislation.Some Democrats think legislating in baby steps to achieve healthcare reform is their best option now that the party has lost its 60-vote super majority with Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts to fill Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat.

According to Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr., (D-NJ), some House Democrats are proposing an incremental approach to fix the healthcare system via multiple pieces of legislation instead of a single all-encompassing bill.  The goal would remain to reform insurance coverage, assure patients’ rights and improve the way that healthcare is delivered.  Pascrell envisions introducing three or four bills in quick succession.  The legislation would encompass the least controversial elements of the broader reform package now stalled in Congress.

Pascrell believes that his measures might garner some Republican support because they would eliminate the public option, individual insurance mandates and entitlement programs.  Pascrell notes that “You can blame the Senate all you want, but we are our own worst enemy.  We do everything in mega-fashion.  We need to do it in mini-fashion.”

Why Did Joe Lieberman Kill the Public Option?

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Joe Lieberman claims to be a liberal, yet blocks Democratic healthcare reform.  Why did Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) threaten to filibuster and insist on dropping the public option and a Medicare buy-in for people aged 55 – 64 in the healthcare reform bill?  Even more puzzling is the fact that Lieberman had supported a public option as recently as this past September.  Lieberman, who may classify as a liberal, is pro-choice and supports some gay rights, angered Democrats in his home state of Connecticut when he openly campaigned for Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential election.

In The Guardian, Chris McGreal writes that “Now, in the view of some, he is plumbing new depths of betrayal by using his deciding vote as an independent member of the Senate to hold hostage Barack Obama’s reform of America’s dysfunctional healthcare system.   Lieberman’s tactics have upset Democratic party members of Congress who are asking why a popular president’s agenda is being stalled by a senator who has repeatedly turned his back on his old party.”

Critics see Lieberman’s opposition to the public option as a result of his acceptance of approximately $1 million in campaign donations from the medical insurance industry – many of which are headquartered in his home state — over his 21-year Senate career.  Lieberman’s wife, Hadassah, works for a lobbying firm as its health and pharmaceutical specialist.  Her previous employers include big pharma companies Pfizer and Hoffmann-LaRoche.  Lieberman’s supporters thought he was “genuinely an independent” who agrees “more often than not with Democrats on domestic policy.  I agree more often than not with Republicans on foreign and defense policy,” Lieberman once told Fox News.

According to McGreal, “Detractors paint a picture of a vain, bitter man still stung by his rejection by Democratic voters who came close to scuppering his Senate career three years ago and now reveling in the power he wields to block Obama’s first piece of major legislation.”  Lieberman says he is not acting out of spite.  “That’s just poppycock,” he said.  “If I had any sense of vendetta against the Democratic party, I wouldn’t be in the Democratic caucus today.”

Joe Lieberman Vows to Say “No” to a Public Option

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Healthcare reform’s worst news could be former vice presidential candidate Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), who is threatening to join a Republican filibuster should a public option in any form be included in the final legislation.  Senators possibly joining Lieberman in opposing a public option are Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is exploring compromise measures with his 60-member caucus.

So opposed is Lieberman that he has vowed to filibuster the ultimate bill if it contains any form of public option.  This includes “the trigger” or “fallback” that is favored by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  Under this plan, the trigger would let states opt out of a public plan.  Lieberman also opposes Senator Tom Carper’s (D-DE) “the hammer”, which would allow states to opt into a public plan.  Blue Dog Democrats like Landrieu have expressed some support for both “the trigger” and “the hammer”.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) remains optimistic.  “I think that what happens is there are two weeks, three weeks, whatever, of debate.  Senator Lieberman, everybody gets a chance to offer amendments.  I don’t want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country, when the public option has this much support, that it’s not going to be in it,” he said, noting that a majority of the American people support a public option.  According to Brown, the four dissenters will “look at this bill in the end and say, I don’t think they want to be on the wrong side of history.  I don’t think they want to go back and say, you know, on a procedural vote, ‘I killed the most important bill in my political career.’  I don’t think they want to be there on that.  So I think in the end, we get them.”

Pat of the dilemma, the Democrats find themselves in is that two Democrats – Roland Burris and Bernie Sanders – have vowed not to vote for the bill if there’s no public option.

Senate Moves Healthcare Reform Forward in Historic Vote

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Senate votes to send healthcare reform legislation to the floor; language of the ultimate bill still unknown.  In a rare Saturday evening roll call, the Senate recently voted 60 – 39 along straight party lines to open debate  on wide-ranging healthcare reform legislation.  The procedural vote – in which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) won backing from his entire 60-member caucus – moves the healthcare reform debate from committee into the full Senate.  Even with an important victory under his belt, Reid still faces a fight from conservative Blue Dog Democrats – not to mention Republicans.

Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) told ABC’s “This Week” that he voted to cut off a Republican filibuster because it opens the way to revising the legislation as it currently is written.  “If I thought the bill couldn’t be amended and couldn’t be improved, I wouldn’t vote to move it forward and move the debate,” Nelson said.  “Debate can begin.  We ought not to stop the opportunity to improve the bill.”

Conversely, Senator Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told “Meet the Press” that Saturday’s vote was a victory for President Barack Obama and Senator Reid.  “We have a lot of different opinions on our side of the caucus and we came together last night.”  New York Democrat Charles Schumer agreed, saying the bill can win the necessary supermajority to fend off a filibuster because the Senate’s public opinion is adequately centrist.  “There is no intent to compete unfairly with private insurance.  This is a modest public option,” he said, noting that it has the same requirements as private insurance coverage.

Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, want to write entirely new legislation with significant GOP input.  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said the current bill will be an expensive “disaster for our country” that would increase the deficit and force some Americans to lose healthcare coverage.

Whatever shape the ultimate Senate legislation takes, it will have to undergo reconciliation with the more liberal House of Representatives’ bill passed in early November.  Although Saturday’s procedural motion required a 60-vote majority, passage of the final healthcare reform bill will require just 51 votes.