President Obama came out today and finally called for an up or down vote on health reform.
My first thought was, “It’s about fucking time.” Seriously, you’ve let the centerpiece of your legislative goals drag on for 14 months. Get it done, already!
But let me throw in a positive aspect to this before I continue the rest of my bitching. This is actually pretty bold for Obama. Seriously, I think that he may have found the big boy pants he had on when he took down Hillary. I’m a bit of a fashion whore and I have to say, I’m a big fan of Obama’s big boy pants. I hope he plans on wearing them more often.
Why is this bold for Obama? Because what he is supporting when he says “up or down vote” is reconciliation. This is bold because republicans have done a fairly good job at attaching negative connotations to passing this bill through reconciliation. They’ve mostly done this by lying about what reconciliation is. FOX has been referring to it as “the nuclear” option, in an effort to further confuse and scare. Let’s clear this up once and for all.
The nuclear option and reconciliation are not the same thing. The nuclear option would eliminate the filibuster as an option in the senate once and for all. I understand how this may sound appealing right about now, but it’s a really bad idea. The filibuster is the one mechanism that the minority party that ensures that they can’t get shut out of a debate entirely. We need to preserve the rights of the minority party. I personally believe that the best bills are the ones that are fought and negotiated vigorously by opposing sides. What we’re left with is better than what we get when one side with one ideology creates a bill. Republicans threatened to trigger the nuclear option when they had a slight majority in the senate. Democrats backed down in order to preserve the filibuster.
Reconciliation is something entirely different. Reconciliation would allow a straight up or down vote on this bill without demolishing the filibuster. Historically, reconciliation was only used to pass through bills that would lower the deficit. The Byrd rule prohibited the use of reconciliation on measures that would increase the deficit beyond 10 years (of the passing of the measure). Republicans, being the fiscal conservatives that they are, blew the Byrd amendment out of the water 3 times over. They used it to pass all 3 of Bush’s tax cuts which were not budgeted for. Those tax cuts were 100% deficit spending. It was the least “conservative” thing that the republican party could have done, which is why it’s a little a little hard to listen to the same exact group of shitbags now crow about the deficit. But I digress.
COBRA was passed by reconciliation. It’s right there in the name; Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act. I bring up COBRA because it shoots down a number of the republican talking points in one fell swoop. First, it demonstrates that reconciliation is not a scary, government demolishing procedure that will leave us all rocking back and forth in the fetal position from the trauma if it all. Second, it blows away that whole, “no major piece of legislation has ever been passed through reconciliation” horseshit.
Now I know that democrats perpetually feel the need to educate the public on how things work. Shit, I’m here trying to educate the public on how things work. I have to say that I think that education is the wrong path to take to combat republican misdirection. I think that democrats should educate the American people on the only thing that they need to understand. Republicans are breaking filibuster records (previously set by republicans) at an astonishing rate. Democrats need to let the American people know that one simple fact. Then, they need to add, “So we’re going to have to use reconciliation repeatedly, relentlessly, and in ways that we never imagined having to use it in order to get the people’s work done”. Period. No scholarly tutorials on parliamentary procedure, no seminars on the origin of reconciliation, and most importantly, no acquiescing the point that using reconciliation is dirty. They should have none of that.
This one simple, straight forward approach serves two very important purposes. First, it shoves this petulant perpetual filibustering tactic right back down the republican’s throats. Maybe Mitch McConnell will think twice next time he lets someone like Jim Bunning cut unemployment benefits off for millions of people. Second, it prepares the American people for the possibility that there’s more of this to come. And if this ever comes up again, it establishes that republicans gave them no choice.
Remember how I promised you more bitching about Obama? Well here it is – if they’re going to pass this bill through reconciliation, they should go for the gold. They should go for the version that reduces the deficit the most. They should go for the version that covers the most number of people and offers the maximum amount of choices. They should go for the version that has a public option in it. They claim that they don’t have the votes to pass a bill with the public option in it. I say SHOW ME.
Cenk Uygur recently blogged about this here:
I agree with him. Take the damned vote and show me who’s against it. I want to know which representative, that gets government run health care on my dime is against my right to the same options that they have. Take the damned vote and show me whether the problem is that there’s a lack of will to get this accomplished, or whether there’s simply a lack of leadership. Until you do that, I just remain bitter about the whole damned thing. I’m pissed off at the idea that you’re going to force me to buy insurance from the same companies that have been fucking me for years. I’m pissed off that you’re naïve enough to believe that they’re going to stop fucking me unless you step in and FORCE them to stop fucking me. Take the vote and show me what the problem is so that I can help you.
President Obama, I’m the vote that you’re trying to buy with all of that Goldman Sachs money you’re courting. You could cut out the middle man if you did what the American people elected you to do. There’s no need for the piles and piles of lobbyist money if you keep our votes.