Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Legislative/Policy Update

-Unfortunately, a bill that would have given District of Columbia residents their first-ever member of Congress (their representative to Congress is a non-voting delegate and residents currently can only vote in presidential races) was blocked in the Senate today. Senators voted 57-42, just three votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a GOP filibuster threat (which will simply cement their inability to get Africa-American voters for a few more generations). The bill actually would have created two new House seats: One for Washington, D.C. and one for Utah, which narrowly missed out on a fourth seat after the last census and was needed to get what bipartisan support it had. Many had thought they might have enough votes for passage. However, the White House had also threatened a veto anyway.

-According to Congressional Quarterly, the leaders of the Senate Budget Committee unveiled legislation Tuesday that would require the next Congress to address the long-term budget strain associated with Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs.
The bill would create a 16-member task force that would make recommendations by Dec. 9, 2008, on how to address soaring costs of programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The bill calls for the recommendations to be introduced as legislation in the 111th Congress, and both chambers would have to consider it soon after that Congress convenes in January 2009. Debate would be limited, and the proposal could not be amended. It would require a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers to pass.

The legislation was unveiled Tuesday by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the panel’s ranking Republican. The task force would be charged with looking at all aspects of the budget, including tax policy. “Everything is on the table,” said Conrad, D-N.D.

“We tried to take the politics out the runup to this work,” Conrad said, by putting off the task force’s recommendations until after the 2008 elections.

Conrad said he was not sure if the Budget Committee would mark up the legislation or whether he and Gregg would try to take it straight to the Senate floor. Gregg and Conrad said they had briefed the Senate leadership and several members.

House Budget Committee Chairman John M. Spratt Jr., D-S.C., and Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, that panel’s ranking Republican, have not said whether they plan to introduce similar legislation.
Sounds like an interesting idea.

-Lastly, Sen. Hillary Clinton unveiled her health care proposal this week which resembles not her proposal in the early 90s but rather those of fellow presidential candidates John Edwards, Sen. Barack Obama, and others. All contain provisions to expand federal programs to cover all children, offer subsidies to the poor, a cadre of business tax incentives and ultimatums, rolling back the Bush tax cuts to get the money, and both Edwards' and Clintons' plans have a Massachusetts-style "individual mandate" that requires everyone have health insurance as they do auto insurance.

All get us closer to the goal of "universal health care" but are pretty complicated for the average voter to understand. And as Michael Moore's "Sicko" pointed out, "universality" guarantees only that everyone has health insurance but doesn't prevent insurance companies in a for-profit system from denying care. Interestingly, a new CBS News poll shows a majority of Americans support the single-payer, national health system espoused by Moore: 55% supported "having one health insurance program covering all Americans that would be administered by the government and paid for by taxpayers." Just 29% favored the current system.

Given this level of support, why are none of the major candidates supporting such a system? None of the Republicans do, of course, and only two third-tier Democrats - Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former senator Mike Gravel - do. No doubt they fear the same insurance companies and special interests that went after "Hillarycare" and no doubt some are getting money from those interests. True health care reform will come only when a grassroots movement stands up and demands change from our elected leaders.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

55%...I'm surprised and pleased.